British burglars, thieves and robbers will be the first in the world to be fitted with GPS tags to track their movements when they are freed from jail.
The trackers will monitor the criminals 24 hours a day for up to a year in a pilot project the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is trialling to stop reoffending.
More than half of those convicted of theft and burglary offend again within a year and almost 80% of cases result in no suspect being identified, according to the MoJ.
The move is intended to provide police with an “extra source of intelligence” to help catch persistent offenders and has the potential to also act as a deterrent.
Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “Being burgled or robbed is devastating and I understand how frustrating it is when the perpetrators can’t be caught, both for the public and the police.
“Tagging these prolific offenders so we know where they are 24 hours a day should be powerful persuasion to change their ways and will help police find and charge them if they don’t.”
New laws are expected to be introduced to impose the measures, with the rules applying to burglars, robbers and thieves, who have served a prison sentence of a year or more.
Prison and probation staff will be able to check the location history of offenders against details of crimes provided by police officers so they can be ruled out as suspects or investigated further.
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National Police Chief’s Council electronic monitoring lead, Deputy Chief Constable Jon Stratford believes the movement will be a huge help to the forces.
He said: “Tagging prolific offenders provides a strong deterrent and means officers will be able to quickly arrest and gather evidence against anyone suspected of being involved in a robbery, burglary or other theft.
“This scheme will play a part in our overall work to prevent crime and keep our communities safe.”
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The plan will initially be tested out in six police force areas – Avon and Somerset, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Gwent, Humberside and West Midlands – from April 12 with an estimated 250 offenders tagged in the first six months. A further 13 areas will trial the system from September.
Police officers will be able to submit any burglaries, thefts or robberies they are investigating to a dedicated unit overseen by HM Prison and Probation Service.
Trained staff will then be able to check the location history of those on tags against the details of the crime, allowing police to either rule out or investigate suspects further.
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