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Shropshire firefighters fighting back against thieves

By Lucy Todman | Newport | Crime | Published:

Thieves put lives at risk after stealing vital equipment for fire stations in Shrewsbury and now firefighters are fighting back.

SmartWater’s Steve Mills, a former crime squad officer, shines an ultra violet light to identify stolen equipment and entrap thieves watched by area manager John Das Gupta, of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, at the scene of a “first ever” crime at Albrighton Fire Station.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has called in SmartWater, the crime deterrent and “thief catcher,” to protect equipment from further raids in all 23 Shropshire fire stations.

Every single piece of firefighting kit, from hoses to Holmatro cutting gear, is being forensically marked with SmartWater.

Security fences, door entry systems, motion detectors and CCTV are also being installed to protect fire stations in a crime prevention exercise predicted to cost £150,000, said area manager John Das Gupta.

The fire and rescue service has been forced into the move after raiders smashed their way into fire stations in Albrighton and Newport to steal heavy rescue equipment, worth more than £70,000, used to cut casualties free in road crashes.

Albrighton firefighters were unable to attend 999 calls needing the rescue equipment for a number of hours until it was replaced, with fire and rescue cover provided by other fire stations which increased travel distances and attendance times.

Mr Das Gupta said: “Our fire stations have not been targeted before. Despicable criminals have reached a new low by stealing equipment used to save lives. It is an attack on the community which we are here to protect and now we have to invest huge sums as a result."

He said lives had been put at risk by the thefts with firefighters from Albrighton and Newport unable to attend collisions on the nearby A41.

Gary Higgins, director of security services at SmartWater said: “Shropshire is the home of SmartWater and we are proud to be working with Shropshire Fire and Rescue to help protect our fire stations and lifesaving equipment.

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“SmartWater maintains a 100 per cent conviction rate when used as evidence in court and has aided the successful conviction of hundreds of criminals. As a result, it is considered to be a powerful deterrent, which will directly benefit Shropshire Fire and Rescue by making their assets significantly less attractive to thieves.”

SmartWater scientists created a unique, clear water based forensic formula, for each Shropshire fire station. Invisible to the naked eye, the solution glows yellow under UV light and forensic scientists only need a speck to identify where an item was stolen from or to link criminals back to the scene of their crime.

Deterrent SmartWater signs have also been displayed, sending out a powerful warning to would-be thieves, he said.

Thieves first attacked the Albrighton station in June when neighbours raised the alarm after seeing three men acting suspiciously in the early hours. Less than two months later a second night time raid was carried out at Newport fire station and equipment stolen and a fire appliance damaged.

Anyone with information about the break-ins should contact police on 101. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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