Criminals to steal research limelight

March 7, 2003

A series of studies in which criminals are filmed re-enacting their offences and are then interviewed about them has been unveiled by one of the UK's leading crime specialists.

Martin Gill, professor of criminology at the University of Leicester, said his work would provide the first independent evaluation of which anti-crime measures were most effective.

Each study will look at different types of crime, starting with shoplifting and street robbery, then looking at others including fraud, burglary and hacking.

For shoplifting, criminals with previous convictions - many of whom Professor Gill suspects could "still be active" - are sent into a store with a small camera and are asked to explain their movements and what attracts them to a particular product. They are then invited to view the footage and describe their techniques before being filmed carrying out a theft - with a store's consent. Several retailers are collaborating with Professor Gill and are providing research funding.

He added: "We can see the sort of techniques that (criminals) use to steal.

When you break it down like that, you realise there is a knowledge base, that it is not just idle behaviour. These people know what they're doing, are good at it and get away with it."

While the studies will be used to provide training videos to help police, security officers and victims, there is also a more academic side to Professor Gill's work. He explained: "For us to be conclusive about whether security measures are effective, it is very important to consider the views of those they are designed to challenge. The fact that offenders have not yet been used systematically to test the effectiveness of such measures creates a great gap in understanding."

The findings of Professor Gill's first study in the series, on what criminals say about CCTV, will be released at a conference in June.

Academic findings from all studies will be published by Perpetuity Press.

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