Money talks as pounds 70 informers turn in burglars

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The Independent Online
The cultivation of networks of informers could be a key weapon in the fight to cut burglaries, says the Audit Commission, the local authority spending regulator.

An initiative to recruit and reward informants has helped lead to the the biggest increase in clear-up rates for burglaries in one force, the commission said yesterday.

The scheme, run by Hertfordshire Constabulary, involves the systematic use of informants at an average payment of around pounds 70 per arrest, and is highlighted in a report by the commission as an example of good practice that other forces should follow.

Hertfordshire increased its clear-up rate for house burglaries by 14 per cent between 1993 and 1995, the biggest improvement by any force in England and Wales. Every suspect interviewed is also approached as a possible source of information on other crimes and criminals. Prison visits are seen as a prime opportunity to recruit informants.

The commission found that the number of registered informants had tripled to 900 since 1993, even though those people who had ceased to be active were more systematically weeded from the register. It estimates that the intelligence provided led to an average of two arrests a day in 1995.

Around two-thirds of Hertfordshire's informants are run by uniformed officers, a rarity before 1993. Many have received specialist training in informant handling.

Detective Superintendent Alan Shannon, head of crime management with the force, said intelligence-led policing including the cultivation of informants and the targeting of persistent offenders by surveillance squads had been crucial to the force's success.

Kate Flannery, a member of the commission's senior management, said: "Some chief officers are still a little wary of allowing inexperienced officers to try to control informants. There are obvious risks."

Other policing trends praised in the report include the targeting of prolific offenders in operations such as the Metropolitan Police's Operation Bumblebee, more proactive policing, and assigning responsibility for most investigations to local units.

Publication of the report came as Met officers arrested 329 people in London under the Bumblebee initiative. In a series of dawn raids police recovered a substantial quantity of stolen goods along with two pistols, CS gas canisters and drugs.

About 1,700 officers took part, searching 600 addresses. Ian Johnston, an assistant commissioner, said that since Bumblebee was launched in June 1993 about 34,000 people had been arrested for burglary. Residential burglaries had fallen by 5 per cent in the past year while the detection rate was up 24 per cent.