Police and council collaborate to stamp out crime
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More than £50,000 worth of gold was stolen by 26-year-old Dane Chard and Jonathan Coyle, aged 18 and between August and November last year.
Today, Chard of no fixed address and Coyle of Stroud Road, Patchway appeared at Bristol Crown Court for sentencing. Chard was jailed for four years and eight months, while Coyle was jailed for three years and eight months.
They were charged with: conspiracy to commit burglary with intent to steal; conspiracy to steal fuel from various petrol stations and cigarettes from vehicles. The offences took place between August 23 and November 11 last year.
Since the arrests, the number of Asian gold type burglaries reported, has decreased by almost a half (47 per cent). This has also accounted a reduction of seven per cent of the total number of house burglaries in the force.
There had been an annual increase in the past few years in Asian gold-type house burglaries, against a national and force-wide trend of falling house burglaries.
The recent economic downturn led to an increase in the value of gold, particularly ‘Indian’ gold which is considered to be of a particularly high quality.
The Guardian newspaper highlighted the threat in an article in 2012 on March 31 headlined: ‘The Great Asian Gold Theft Crisis’ in which it reported that the value of gold was at record highs.
“Burglars were targeting the homes of British Asian families for their collections of high-quality ‘Indian gold’ jewellery. Their gold collection is treasure handed down from generations of their families in Pakistan, or bought as wedding gifts.”
The easy disposal of the gold, compared with electrical and other items, made Asian gold far more attractive to handlers and burglars. It could be easily smelted down and was then lost forever, making it difficult to track the crime.
Asian homeowners in Bristol became distressed and concerned after their homes were targeted. Often they would only be away from their home for a short period, returning to find it had been broken into and their valuable – often priceless – family gold taken.
This helped promote a sense of fear and concern, that their homes were being watched and monitored.
In one incident a woman who was alone in her home heard a bang at the door. When she answered it there were three men. Eye contact was made but they did not seem concerned and walked away. The victim later discovered that the rear door of the property was damaged, where they had tried to force entry. It was the second time her property had been targeted when keys had been stolen.
The victim felt vulnerable was concerned that the men were watching her home and made their move when her husband was out.
DI Tina Robinson said: “There had been considerable anxiety in Bristol’s Asian communities (mainly Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi) because of the spate of targeted burglaries. They had been specifically targeted because of the tradition that gold was acquired when marriage plans were being made.
“During 2012-2013 there were 74 burglary offences against Asian victims. We paid special attention to this because of the concerns of the community, who felt vulnerable and threatened. Between April 2013 to date around 20 offences – which were specifically Asian gold burglaries were reported to the police – a significant improvement.
“A specialist team was set up to investigate the Asian gold burglaries, following suspects, their vehicles and the type of burglaries. "
Individuals were identified as being involved in a series of crimes including thefts of fuel, theft from motor vehicles and burglaries from houses.
The use of false vehicle plates was a ploy used to frustrate police enquiries as the culprits stole fuel from petrol filling stations and then forced their way into homes, where they knew there was Asian gold.
Persistence from investigators eventually gained the breakthrough. Utilising CCTV, witness statements and covert operations they were able to link up a series of incidents and arrest and eventually charge Jonathan Coyle and Dane Chard.
They were then charged with house burglaries as well as stealing fuel from petrol stations and cigarettes from vehicles.
They admitted the offences at a subsequent hearing at Bristol Crown Court on April 1 this year. Today both received custodial sentences.
After the hearing DI Robinson said: “We hope that the decision taken today helps close a traumatic chapter in the life of the victims, who found their lives blighted by these unscrupulous and aggressive offenders who effectively terrorised their Asian victims and took away priceless gold heirlooms, some of which had been in the families of victims for generations.
“They had a major impact on the community, leaving worried people looking over their shoulders.
“We hope that the police action and the decision of the court will reassure these families that we will not tolerate this type of crime and will bring offenders to justice,” said DI Robinson.
Philippa Isbel, ASB and Community Safety Team Leader at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “We welcome today’s custodial sentence which will bring comfort to the many families who have been affected by the actions of these three individuals who reside in South Gloucestershire and have committed their offences in Bristol.
“Officers from South Gloucestershire Council’s Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) team have supported this action taken by the police, having worked tirelessly to prepare the post-conviction applications for today’s case which involved taking witness statements and supporting the victims of these crimes as the case against the three co-defendants was prepared. This is an excellent example where the police and neighbouring authorities have come together to take positive action against a cross border issue.
“The ASBOs granted today provide a deterrent from these sorts of offences ensuring residents can feel safe in the knowledge that this type of anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated; and we will take action to stamp out crime,” she said.
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