‘Smash in the door, but wipe your feet on the way out...’

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WIPE your feet on the way out – that’s the advice from an officer who forms part of a burglary crackdown team that is searching the home of a young man believed to have been involved in a series of break-ins.

The Operation Scorpion squad swooped on the home in a morning raid after linking the premises with a spree of more than 30 burglaries across three counties, and I joined them for another successful sortie.

First they smashed in the door, not much of a task as it had not been repaired properly from when police last raided the home, and then it was over the threshold.

The smell that smacks you in the face as you enter the top floor flat is not a pleasant one at 7am. It wouldn’t be pleasant at any time of the day.

It appears to be coming for a soiled cat litter tray placed in the bathroom for a recent new addition to the home. The soiled toilet used by the human inhabitants isn’t much better.

Every door inside the flat has holes in it, there are dozens of bags of crinkled clothes strewn around, words have been written on a wardrobe mirror using lipstick, and cigarette butts can be spotted on the floor.

There’s a half eaten ready meal left over from the night before on top of the television and the airing cupboard seems to have become a place to store rubbish.

Police find a couple asleep on a blow-up bed in the living room. They’ve been sleeping with a kitchen knife close to hand but police have them in cuffs before it can be used.

Last time they raided this home, one officer was hit around the head with a Malibu bottle and one of the men they were there to arrest ended up with a broken ankle during the tussle to restrain him.

“It went very wrong,” said one of the team who was there.

This time the officers – all wearing stab vests, which have handy pockets for things like Mace spray, are more prepared.

During the morning briefing at Hemel Hempstead police station before the swoop, Det Insp Fraser Wylie warned: “These boys are not afraid to kick off, so make sure your secure them very quickly and cuff them and then search the property.”

After arresting one man in the house, his girlfriend is cuffed while police painstakingly search the property after donning blue plastic protective gloves.

Throughout the whole process not one neighbour approaches to find out what is going on. Maybe they’re all to accustomed to this address being targeted.

“It’s the neighbours I feel sorry for,” says one officer.

Operation Scorpion is made-up of a sergeant and seven officers hand-picked for their ability to carry out this type of policing.

Mr Wylie said: “They’re diligent, professional officers who have the knack and ability to police pro-actively.

“I’m a great believer that if you recognise people that cause us the most harm you need to police those individuals. I think the community expects us to identify those individuals and police them.

“If they weren’t causing harm I wouldn’t need to do it. It is driven by what we know is happening.”

Their work has helped drive down street muggings by 46 per cent between April 2011 and January 2012, compared to the same period during the previous 12 months and dwelling burglaries are also down by more than three per cent – a figure Mr Wylie hopes to drive up to between five and 10 per cent before the end of the policing year in March.

On top of that, an extra six per cent of burglaries were solved and the offenders brought to justice.

“During a difficult year, which it has been for everybody, people are out of work and policing is very difficult. To get those results around burglary, it should be a confidence boost for the public,” said Mr Wylie.