Tackle Theft

In this week’s blog we’ve teamed up with Dan Crandon. Not only is Dan a keen angler, he’s also a serving police officer. In our latest article he tries to give you an insight in the worst thing that could happen to you as an angler, what to do and, hopefully, how to avoid it!

We have all been there, we’ve all lost the big one or special fish. More often than not this loss is made even more painful by said fish being lost at the net or chugging around in the margins, either way, fate has allowed you to see what could have been, before it slips away into the depths. You’re then left with two options; to cry or to break something. Either way its a get wrenching experience; and such a low feeling is is difficult to replicate.

So, just take a minute, sit back, and think for a second or two about how you’d feel discovering that all of your gear and tackle had been stolen. No matter the discipline of angling you enjoy, this pastime of ours can be become expensive. We select tackle carefully to fit our budget, have items bought as presents and gifts, and some items of tackle hold so much sentimental value, they’re priceless. So we need to make a conscious effort to make sure we look after our tackle.

It takes only a matter of minutes spent browsing Facebook before you come across a post from someone who has become a victim of theft. And recently the most high profile victim of tackle theft was Adam Penning, from the carp fishing fraternity who had several items of tackle stolen in 2018.

Before we get into the some steps that can help prevent you being the next victim of a tackle theft, firstly, need to understand the type of offences you may become a victim of, the offender type associated with such offences and what to do should be in the unfortunate position of becoming a national crime statistic.

The two most common offences that you will associate with the loss of fishing tackle will be theft and burglary. Although both will involve you losing your gear they are different criminal offences, even though they come under the theft act and each holds different sentencing powers for judges and magistrates should the offender be caught. The two offences will also dictate the level of police response and how they can or can’t deal with the offence throughout. There will be a theme that becomes more apparent throughout the article and will hopefully give you some food for thought.

So, theft is defined as being:

A person is guilty of theft if he (she) dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive the other of it.

Burglary will be defined as:

A person is guilty of burglary if he (she) enters any building or part of a building as a trespasser with the intent to commit an offence such as those mentioned in subsection 2.

So with out quoting chapter and verse (subsection 2) further those offences will be; with the intention to steal (theft), cause GBH or to cause unlawful damage, in lay persons terms.

In this instance we are concerned with the theft element of burglary, which, to be fair, is what most people will associate with the offence.

So, there is a clear difference in offence here. Your “standard” theft can take place anywhere, and in angling terms, on the bank side, your driveway, your car or van. But when a person enters a building whether it be a dwelling or not (it could be your shed) the offence type becomes greater and this should be a consideration for you, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, your expectations of what will be done at court, should any offender be apprehended and sentenced having been found guilty must be managed. Generally, theft will carry a lesser sentence than burglary, so prepare yourself for outcomes such as fines, community orders and lighter prison sentences. Burglary, especially from a dwelling, will normally carry a custodial sentence.

Secondly, the police response will normally be different for a theft also, especially if an offender is not at the location at the time you call them. With the dwindling number officers and the financial cuts they have have enforced upon them, calls will get treated differently. For example: if you wake up, having spent the night on the bank and your rods are gone, you will probably call the police. As you’re calling the police the victim of an ongoing domestic assault may be too, or the victim of a rape, or GBH, or a murder even. Therefore police resources will currently treat calls on an individual, threat/risk/harm basis and you may not be the top priority, you may not even see an officer. At the end of the day, you are safe. Yes your tackle is gone, but you are safe when other members of the public may not be.

Burglary, however, will always get a response from the police as there will normally be, at the very least, the potential for forensic opportunities. There may also be CCTV in the locality of your home, witnesses in the form of passers by or neighbours.

It is important that you manage your expectations should you become a victim of either of these offences take a logical approach to things, and there are some considerations that are important when you initially discover you have become a victim.

Taking theft of your tackle in the first instance; where this theft took place will play a massive part in the level of investigation that may or may not take part from thereon. Should this happen, as previously mentioned, while fishing, and usually overnight it will be very difficult to find an offender. There will be no scene as such to forensically analyse, there will be no CCTV in your swim or peg (especially if on the river, on a large gravel pit or the such like), and sadly the likelihood of any witnesses will be slim. So take your time and have a logical approach to things. How many entrances or exits are there to the water? Does this lead to a main road or car park? Does that area have CCTV? Was there any suspect vehicles in the area when you arrived? What make, model or colour? Did you get a number plate? Did the offender leave anything behind (if so don’t touch it and make it available to police)?

Should the theft happen from your vehicle take the same logical approach. Consider forensic opportunities on your vehicle. Try not to touch anything and secure your vehicle from the weather as this can effect any forensic opportunities that may be available. Then the same thought process should apply, CCTV, witnesses etc.

Then there’s burglary. You wake up or return home to discover that you have been the victim of a break in and your fishing tackle, probably amongst other things, are gone. What do you do? Well, firstly, don’t tidy up, move or touch anything if at all possible. Lock up and secure the premises then call the police, no matter how long it takes them to arrive, securing the building so it can be analysed properly by forensic officers gives you the best chance of finding out who did this.

If you clean up or walk through the scene you risk loosing fingerprints, footprints, blood, hair fibres and other sources of DNA. You will also loose the opportunity to have everything photographed which may allow the police to establish a similar MO to other like offences in the area. Glass samples can be obtained if an window has been smashed, the list really is endless. So don’t touch, lock up and wait for the police.

No matter how well you conduct yourself intially and aid the police investigation, there is still the realisation that your tackle is gone. Again, there are things you can do to try and retrieve your property.

Understaing the offender type will help with this. In cases like this there is genrally two offender types.

The opportunist will be the typoe if thief or burglar that steals, normally to fund a drug habit or the such like and therefore will want to “fence” any stolen gear quickly. Logic would dictate that this may be done locally to you. So, go to your local tackle shop, and visit your local lake, river, ponds to see if anyone has been offered fishing tackle to buy and get a post on social media quickly with the items that have been taken (pictures always help).

The second offender type you may encounter is the more “professional” thief. Criminals who may have a background in more organised crime who are stealing to order or as part of a wider criminal operation. Their need to move your stolen tackle is less pressing and while checking locally is always worth doing as mentioned above, a more digital approach will benefit you. Focus on selling sites such as eBay and gumtree and social media platforms that offer sales such as Facebook. It’s less likely that the offender will be interested in selling locally to you in order to avoid detection. Therefore look for sales and selling groups in neighbouring counties or towns. Should you find items of yours for sale, secure a purchase and pick up time and location and inform the police. let the do the rest, don’t put yourself in any danger, no physical item is worth that. You can do this by creating an alias profile on any given social media platform with a view to terminating it when you have achieved your goal or you have reached a dead end.

All of the aforementioned is all well and good, but the best thing is to prevent this from happening in the first place and here’s a few pointers on how to do this.

  • Mark all your tackle to ensure it’s unique and identifiable should it be found. UV pens are great for this.

  • Don’t leave anything in your car or van on display or overnight- your just inviting the opportunist thief to come and say hello.

  • Don’t have stickers or branding on your vehicle that suggest you’re into angling. This avoids you being targeted by the more organised criminal.

  • Keep your swim or peg tidy, don’t have all your tackle on display- you never know who is watching or eye your tackle up.

  • Don’t wash or clean large items of tackle or dry nets etc. in full view at your home address. Again, you’re just inviting thieves.

  • Take alternate routes to and from the lake or river if you fish the same place. This way you can’t be followed home and targeted over night. This happens a lot. Seen on the bank, followed home, burgled at night.

  • Store your tackle securely. Invest in the best doors and locks for sheds or garages- if your’e willing to spend over £1000 on a pole or a set of rods, why secure those items with a £5 lock from B and Q.

  • Invest in CCTV. Although, you get what you pay for quality wise, and most thefts take place over night.

  • Try to keep things in your house where possible. Remember previously we mentioned a theme? Well that is that dwelling burglaries get given a greater priority by both the police and courts. As such you get more of a service from these departments and it really raises the stakes for any thief. A mans house is his castle after all.

  • Don’t post angling pictures all over social media one week, then check in at an airport or hotel in another country. THEY KNOW YOU ARE NOT HOME.

  • Have a clean up of your online “friends”. Nobody has 5000 friends that they actually know and would invite to their home. Again, you never know who is looking at you playing a barbel on that new, custom built rod you bought.

  • When at any given venue you’re fishing try and park your vehicle where there is ample lighting, CCTV or a heavy footfall. This all helps to put any potential thief off. They will, after all, take the path of least resistance.

Daniel Crandon