Hundreds of otherwise unsolved crimes cleared up by 'TIC' unit
Detectives have revealed how criminals are being brought to book for offences that might otherwise go unsolved - by using a tool known as TICs.
Operation Converter aims to secure convictions by allowing offenders to own up to other crimes, which can be taken into consideration (TIC) at sentence.
In 2018/19, 650 were obtained from 61 people on remand, on bail or under investigation.
Although just 10% of last year's domestic burglaries have been solved, the rate would have been less than 7% without the 58 TICs obtained by Operation Converter, which also provided 75% (156) of non-dwelling burglary detections.
Other offences acceptable as TICs include robbery, theft from vehicles and other 'volume crime'.
Prisoners in jails nationwide have made voluntary admissions following visits from Suffolk's two-man TIC team, Duncan Etchells and Barry Simpson, who may then provide a favourable statement to the court when it comes to sentencing, allowing lawyers to highlight their client's desire to clean the slate.
If offences are accepted as TICs, a defendant will be convicted and cannot be arrested or charged if new evidence comes to light.
Police say the use of TICs saves significant case work and forensic expense, while reassuring victims and improving public confidence in the criminal justice system.
They can only be used in conjunction with charged offences and must be of a similar nature - meaning a shoplifter cannot ask for an assault to be considered, and only the less serious crimes can be taken into consideration.
Admissions must be detailed enough to link an offender to the crimes - and the use of TICs must withstand detailed scrutiny.
In recent weeks, TIC schedules have been drawn up for the sentencing of criminals including Luke Smart, 29, of Oxford Road, Ipswich, who was jailed for five years after admitting robbery, attempted robbery, two counts of possession of a knife, handling stolen goods and fraud by false representation, but also admitted four other offences, including two burglaries, robbery and theft.
Anthony Vittles, 45, of Brentgovel Street, Bury St Edmunds, put forward 10 TICs when jailed for 18 months for aggravated vehicle taking and breaching a suspended sentence, while Cherie Tyler, 30, of Crowland Road, Haverhill, also offered 10 TICs when jailed for 12 years for being part of a robbery.
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Martyn Bell, 24, of no fixed address, asked for six muggings and eight other TICs when jailed for another six street robberies and holding up an Ipswich Co-op at knifepoint.
Bell chose to engage in order to serve his sentence knowing other crimes would not be outstanding upon release - providing an incentive for him to go straight, according to Detective Constable Etchells, who said: "We can't force anyone to talk to us and we have to be satisfied they committed the crimes they're admitting.
"Martyn Bell was able to take us to locations of robberies that happened at a similar time, in a similar location, and was able to recall circumstances that matched our crime report. We need verifiable, corroborative evidence only the offender would know.
"In return for their admissions, we provide a statement describing their cooperation and remorse, often including their wish to take part in any Restorative Justice initiative deemed most suitable for the victims."
During the first quarter of 2019, 150 TICs were obtained from 19 offenders, including 12 referred to a Restorative Justice coordinator.
Luke Smart was keen to take part by writing a letter of apology to everyone affected by his crimes.
DC Etchells said many feel genuine remorse - particularly if they have stolen something of sentimental value.
"People who commit crime to feed a habit become very different when they're not under the influence of addiction," he added.
"When they get out, they are more determined to keep the slate clean. More importantly, victims can be reassured the person who committed the crime is in prison."
The detectives insist they are not judged on figures and under no pressure to get numbers up.
TICs are crimes that have not reached a sufficient threshold of evidence to charge and would otherwise remain unsolved.
DC Simpson said: "Our overall goal is victim satisfaction, and what better way to achieve this than to be able to tell a victim that someone has been sentenced - usually jailed - for their crime.
"This, in turn, increases public confidence, offender rehabilitation, property recovery and crime reduction.
"If we can stop just one prolific offender from re-offending, it will reduce the number of potential victims in the future."