Cold case cops have launched a major assault on gangs of Leeds burglars who have dodged justice for years.
Officers are reviewing dozens of historic offences for which no-one has been charged, in a bid to snare teams of career crooks who have got away with their crimes.
They believe they can put gangs away by linking them to break-ins – even if there is not enough evidence to convict them of carrying out a specific crime.
It follows a successful test case which led to the jailing of four men for a total of 28 years for conspiracy to burgle.
Chief Supt Dave Oldroyd, who leads work on burglary for police in Leeds, told the YEP: “If you have been arrested four or five times in the last few months in suspicious circumstances, but you know the system and you know to keep your gob shut and you’ve got rid of the stolen property and you’ve got a good solicitor, you need to watch your back.
“There’s significant evidence there for conspiracy and we will now start to pursue this angle vigorously.
“As tricky and slimy as you are, some of the mud will stick.”
The new approach was inspired by the conviction in August of four men – brothers Anthony, Jonathan and Scott Pankhurst as well as Jamie Covey – from the Hawksworth estate in Leeds.
They were caught after detectives linked them to burglaries across the city through mobile phone records.
Dozens of items of property were seized during raids on their homes, enabling detectives to connect them to various crime scenes.
Each defendant got seven years for conspiracy.
Det Insp John Blackwell, the burglary lead for North West Leeds police, said: “It was a test case for us and it worked. That model is being repeated.
“We’re going back through several cases that we’ve previously had to drop
“We’re not going to let them get away with it. If you’ve been arrested six times and let go, that doesn’t mean we won’t come after you from a different angle.”
Two other groups – a total of eight men – have recently been charged with conspiracy following the work being done.
Chief Supt Oldroyd said: “These people who think they know the system, who think they’re big and clever and get away with it because they never admit anything, had better watch out because we’re coming for them.”