Special Crime Patrol Unit (Burglary Squad)

1976: Special Crime Patrol Unit (Burglary Squad): Marilyn Parsons: I was also on the Burglary Squad when it was first formed in 1976. Detective Chief Inspector Taffy Powell started it up.

I am not sure how I got selected for it, but I was on CID at Woking at the time and DC Murphy and I had uncovered a lot of information and property with regard to burglaries which we had used when setting up the squad. We were both seconded at Detective Constables from Woking along with a PC from Woking.

There was a team of four to each group, a Detective Sergeant, two Detective Constables and a PC. Barry Siviers was one of the Detective Constables from SE division. Georgie Wilkinson Detective Sergeant from Addlestone, DC Bob Pratt, DC Martin Wise and PC Cliff Cox, Detective Sergeant Woodfield, DC Colin Ward, DC Charlie Emmett and PC Pengelley.

We had a lot of success in the early days. I left in 1980 as I was expecting a baby and that was the end of my police career unfortunately as women couldn't return part time - it was all or nothing!

We worked in pairs within a team of five. I worked with Bob Pratt mostly on George Wilkinson's team. Martin Wise worked with Cliff Cox. George Wilkinson was our Sergeant. Bob and I had a Beige Cortina with multi-force radios and we had car to car radio link. Our jobs were given to us from our weekly squad meetings by Taffy (Graham Powell).

They would be mostly vehicles seen near or around local burglaries where part indexes had been taken. We would house the cars and then the owners. They mostly always were in the Metropolitan Police area. We would sit on the suspects address for days following them when they left and gathering intelligence on their associates. We had to be careful about alerting the local police/CID as I am afraid there were unscrupulous officers around at the time in the Metropolitan Police. This was 1976-80.

Special Crime Patrol Unit (Burglary Squad) 1980

I can recall that there were situations where on occasions when we had arrested Met villains and had taken then into a Metropolitan Police Station, we would find that the local CID was not impressed. London based criminals did not understand that Surrey officers were not interested in bribes or a sweetener for "a bit of bail".

If it was thought to be a good case the whole squad would end up following the suspects. It was a dawn till dusk operation for days on end some times, before anything happened. We used to get very excited if they came down into Surrey whilst following them.

On one occasion I can recall Bob and I were involved in incidents where we ended up getting the arrest. One of the other teams was tailing a pair of breakers who led them from Kent into Surrey into the Dorking area. I think one was called "Jack the Hat". They were in a mini. They drove around Dorking early evening with no obvious target in mind.

They bought fish and chips and sat and ate them in a local car park and helped themselves to a large box and placed it in the car, we couldn't think why at the time. Then they parked up in the car park in West Street where all the antique shops are and went on a walk about. They took particular interest in a little antique shop in West Street and went around the back to see, we guessed, where they would get in. It was still daylight and eventually they wandered back to their car.

Bob and I sat in the car park watching them from our car; I think the term was that we "had the eyeball". I think we must have sat there at last three hours waiting for them to move. Meanwhile officers had been positioned around the back of the shop ready to pounce. The area was very dark and dimly lit.

At about midnight they got out of the car and picked something up from the ground at the back of the car, and got their large cardboard box out of the back. They walked into West Street and crossed the road. We could see the front of the shop from our car and gave a radio alert to the officers around the back. The next scene was like something out of a movie.

They threw the brick, they had picked up from the ground in the car park, through the front plate glass window of the shop, smashing the glass everywhere. The contents of the window display were scooped into the box they had taken with them. They then ran back across the road and got into their getaway car, a mini!

We were giving a blow by blow account to all and directed the officers from behind the shop to come into the car park. Somehow our dialogue was missed in the disruption and they ran from behind the shop into the street and saw who they thought were the culprits wandering up the road. They gave chase to a group of young lads, on a night out on their way home. Of course they started running when they saw the (plain clothes) officers chasing them.

Meanwhile in the car park Bob and I were left to deal with the two trying to make a getaway. I was in the driving seat of the Cortina and I just drove head on with full headlights on into the path of the mini. Thankfully they stopped, very surprised. We jumped out and opened the car doors and I told "Jack the Hat" he was nicked. He said "OK, it's a fair cop". Well, what else could he say? I just hoped that at court he would plead guilty as who would have believed he had said that on arrest? I think it cleared up quite a few burglaries for us and the Metropolitan Police District.

On another occasion a pair of breakers had been followed by one of the other teams into Surrey and ended up in the Fetcham area. When Bob and I joined them up the two were having a drink in the pub, which is now an old people's home. They obviously need some Dutch courage before their planned job. They left the pub and drove up a residential road behind the pub.

They had sussed out one of the properties before the pub stop. A spotter was placed in the house opposite and he gave out a running commentary on what they were up to. They went around the back of the house and broke in through the kitchen door I think. They could then be seen to search very quickly and effectively the whole house for the type of property they were interested in. They then left the house as quickly as they had entered and got into their car and drove off.

Bob and I were static and followed them up to the roundabout at the top of Young Street. We were hoping that we could get a traffic car to stop them as soon as possible, but as luck would have it they were all tied up on something. They were definitely not going to be allowed to get away, so we kept up with them down Young Street, where they stopped at a hold-up at Givons Grove roundabout.

We jumped out of the car and opened their car doors. They had no idea they had been seen at all. The driver had the contents of what he had taken from the house in his lap, mostly carriage clocks and silver. They were caught red handed. Another good team effort and I believe it cleared up quite a few Surrey offences outstanding and some Metropolitan Police ones of course!

I guess officers now are not allowed to work in this way under the RIPA laws [The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000], which is a great shame and of course the culprits do not come quietly now like these seasoned breakers used to. Almost gentlemen burglars a dying if not dead breed!

1979 Annual report: During the year the officers of the SCP arrested 263 people and recovered property to the value of £307,000.

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1980s: John Lane: I served two terms on the Surrey Constabulary and Surrey Police Special Crime Patrol Unit and my first tour was from 12th July 1981 to 19th January 1985.The second tour was in the 1990s.

My first tour was the best and we operated from an office attached to the then Crime Bureau which was located at the front of the building close to the gymnasium. The office manager was Mick Blencoe known as Mr Pastry and our main task was targeting travelling criminals who were operating within the county most of whom travelled from South East London.

The detective chief inspector was Tim Blake initially and later replaced by Len Rose and the detective inspector was Roger Hawkins later replaced by John Cobbett. Dave Amos and Bob Scott were the detective sergeants and our main job role involved the identifying of prospective targets, undertaking background enquiries and formulating a target package for briefing the team. The targets that were to be worked on by surveillance were selected at weekly meetings run by the detective chief inspector.

Once decided we usually operated as two separate teams under the supervision of the detective sergeants although on occasions the detective inspector and detective chief inspector also joined the teams. At this time the squad used to be allowed to claim up to four hundred units per month in accrued overtime and all excess was carried over as it was not unusual to exceed the four hundred units with extended time on surveillance.

The unit had obvious financial restraints on equipment and when I started we operated a two radio system namely Maxar and the old valve set installations. This meant that one car had both systems installed and operated a relay to units some of which only had the one system. The old valve system was not secure and used to cut across most wavelengths and it was not unusual to hear transmissions from cars bellowing out over garage forecourt installations where an intercom system operated.

However we coped and our biggest problem was getting agreed funding for replacement vehicles as there was no budget set for replacement initially and therefore some of the vehicles exceeded 100,000 miles before replacement. We operated with a motorbike on surveillance operations known as a 4/2 as it only had two wheels as opposed to four. This was to allow us to maintain contact with targets in vehicles in the heavy London traffic as frequently the surveillance convoys got baulked due to traffic conditions.

We also had a limited number of "Body Sets" and at the commencement of any operation we had nominated "footmen" as we did not have individual sets unlike when I returned to the unit in the 1990s.

Briefings prior to the day's operations were undertaken at police stations or section houses usually at 6am or similar and once "on the plot" we could only move our allocated positions with permission from the "eyeball" and then for natural breaks or to obtain refreshments.

We used to incur expenses due to purchase of refreshments and at week's end used to submit expenses claims for those which were paid to us by cheque. These invariably were cashed at The Britannia Public House in Guildford as traditionally we had a "wind down" drink on a Friday night at this venue affectionately known as "The Glitter Dome".

During operations we had a nominated "Log Keeper" who did his or her best to maintain a log of target movements and identifying unit so it acted as a reference document when making statements and this was read to the unit at the day's de-briefings. This was signed by all present once the entry was agreed. Although this document was protected as it provided details of police methods it was frequently brought into the arena at trials and the maker was heavily questioned on it.

The unit operated very successfully and was held in very high regard particularly in the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley areas and the unit had an incredible intelligence network as most collators knew unit members due to their frequent visits. This initiated phone calls to the office from collators when they had intelligence about their criminals operating in Surrey. Targets were "flagged" via C11 if they were being actively worked on to prevent any operation duplication and checks were always made with C11 to check that targets were not already flagged.

Generally this is how the unit operated and there was not a great deal of change when I did the second tour although training with surveillance courses and such like were now in being and equipment was better. Previously all our surveillance training was done "in house" by surveillance trained staff and these were conducted by running our own course with exercises.

The camaraderie on the unit was incredible it was all for one and one for all.

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