TSI backed Operation Liberal puts distraction burglar away for 12 years
A man from Nottinghamshire has been jailed for 12 years after the force teamed up with the national distraction burglary intelligence unit.
Kevin Gamble, formerly of Costock Avenue, Sherwood, twice targeted a 98-year-old man in Arnold, on the outskirts of the city, within the space of a few weeks in January and February, stealing cash on the first occasion but leaving empty-handed the second time around.
Gamble, 53, admitted committing a similar offence in Langley, in the West Midlands, in February. The victim was also in their 90s.
Although the amounts of money stolen were only in the tens of pounds, the length of the sentence handed down at Nottingham Crown Court last week reflected the fact that Gamble had a history of offending dating back to 1979. Since that time he has been convicted of more than 30 burglaries and thefts from homes.
He has claimed to be collecting for a charity, selling household goods door to door and even masqueraded as a police officer in order to deceive his victims, often elderly and vulnerable, to steal from them.
Officers and staff from Operation Liberal, which is based in Nottinghamshire, analyse data from all reported distraction burglaries across England and Wales, working with colleagues from police forces to identify and trace offenders.
Gamble became a suspect for these incidents after a member of the Operation Liberal team identified a similarity in clothing worn by the offender in the Arnold and Langley incidents.
Physical descriptions indicated he may be someone of interest, and information obtained by Operation Liberal from various sources about Gamble’s movements and whereabouts also suggested that he may have been involved.
That information was supported by the discovery of Gamble’s fingerprints at the homes of his victims.
Officers from Nottinghamshire Police pieced together the forensic evidence with the information from Operation Liberal, and the case against Gamble became clearer.
Operation Liberal worked not only with Nottinghamshire officers but also was able to call upon resources from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit to trace Gamble.
He was tracked down to a hotel in Northwich, Cheshire. Cheshire Police provided local officers to make the arrest in April and he was returned to Nottinghamshire for questioning and subsequently charged.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Hewgill, of Operation Liberal said. “The case of Kevin Gamble exemplifies why Operation Liberal was created, when we have what you might call a ‘career distraction burglar’ who travels across the country to carry out his crimes.
“What we at Operation Liberal can do, that individual forces may not have the time and resources for, is assess information about offences in each force and identify links and trends, or obtain and share new intelligence.
“In this instance, Operation Liberal staff looked at a number of incidents in Nottinghamshire and one in the West Midlands. We have studied descriptions, gathered information from a variety of sources to determine where the suspect may have been at the time of the offences and then that has been confirmed through forensic evidence.
”Nottinghamshire CID officers have carried out the police investigation and collated the evidence to bring the case to court, ensuring a prolific burglar is forced to admit his guilt and receives a significant prison sentence as a result.”
DS Jane Bestwick of Beeston CID, in Nottinghamshire, said: “Kevin Gamble was clearly a threat to elderly people and it is possible that he may have committed other offences here. He claimed that we had the wrong man, so it was essential we could prove his guilt beyond doubt.
“Initially he was charged with five offences, but denied two of them. However, the evidence we had collated in conjunction with Operation Liberal was such that he was compelled to admit his guilt for the other three.
“This prison sentence should be welcome news for people living in our community, particularly the elderly, who are so often the victims of unscrupulous individuals like Kevin Gamble.”
Distraction burglary offences in England and Wales have reduced substantially in the past five years, from 10,675 recorded offences in 2007/08 to 3,562 in 2012/13.
DCI Hewgill added: “There may be a number of factors which account for that. Greater awareness is one. Operation Liberal, along with police forces, is working with organisations such as the Trading Standards Institute to ensure crime prevention advice is clearer and more accessible for householders, particularly the elderly.
“These itinerant offenders may only spend a matter of hours in a part of the country many miles from their home simply to commit burglary, brazenly using distraction techniques to deceive their victims.
”But having a national unit to co-ordinate intelligence is also enabling forces to better identify and trace these individuals and we are helping to ensure that some very determined criminals are brought to justice and are not at liberty to carry out these callous and cowardly crimes.”
All forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are members of Operation Liberal. Operation Liberal supports national investigations into distraction burglaries and doorstep crime.
The unit identifies and analyse crime series and monitors intelligence on criminals and organised crime groups who travel throughout the UK to commit these crime types.
This collaborative approach solves more crimes and sends a message to the criminals who commit this type of crime that they will face a nationally co-ordinated investigation and as a result they can expect significant sentences.
Operation Liberal works with many partner agencies including Water UK, Energy UK, Trading Standards, Crimestoppers and the Home Office.
Victims of distraction burglary and rogue trading tend to be elderly and vulnerable and can suffer terribly both emotionally and physically after an offence.
For further information, telephone Rob James, communications officer, on 0115 9670999, ext 800 3050 or 07595 011607.
DATE 16 July 2013