British Police Catch Burglars with Fake Houses

UK cops are using normal-looking houses packed with surveillance equipment to nab crooks

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Burglars who try to rob certain West Yorkshire houses are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Thieves of West Yorkshire, be warned: the flat you’re robbing might be watching you.

For almost six years, Gizmodo reports, British police have been using “capture houses,” seemingly ordinary homes filled with surveillance equipment, to nab unsuspecting burglars. To the layman, each capture house looks just like any other residence on the block. It is fully furnished, stocked with plenty of goodies to lure in robbers, and timed lights even give the appearance of human activity,

But behind each house’s average appearance, there’s a host of crime-fighting traps just waiting to be set off. Each flat is riddled with tiny cameras that snap pictures of thieves while they’re busy snapping up loot. Automated sprays near entrances and windows also douse any intruder with an invisible marker, allowing police to identify the crook and put them at the scene of the crime.

The capture house concept first began in the city of Leeds in late 2007, and due to the program’s success, it has since expanded across West Yorkshire to cities like Birmingham, Nottingham, and other smaller locales. According to Detective Chief Inspector Tony Craven of West Yorkshire Police, the idea came from the city’s wildly successful ‘capture car’ initiative, which he credited with reducing thefts from vehicles by 4,000 incidents. According to the BBC, 20 burglaries are committed in Leads every day, and police are no doubt hoping the capture houses will create a similar decrease in thefts from homes.

Across the pond, American police have also been employing decoys to catch thieves in the act. The Philadelphia police department uses ‘bait bikes’ to nab would-be bicycle snatchers, and, like their English counterparts, the Dallas police have employed full fledged ‘bait houses’ to catch burglars. The American version of the program also fills a realistic-looking house with cameras, and adds to it by hiding GPS trackers in various desirable items. According to WFAA 8, a Texas ABC affiliate, when the items disappear, the cops are alerted and can track the criminal in real time.

While not all burglars will fall into the bait house trap, Gizmodo speculates that knowledge of the program may make thieves reluctant to risk a robbery when they could end up on police cameras. And in addition to deterring thieves, police also want to make their customers think twice about purchasing ill-gotten goods.

If only we had known this is what Smart House would become.