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Targeting the markets for stolen goods two targeted policing initiative projects

Between 1999 and 2002 North Town and South Town experimented with schemes to reduce rates of burglary and theft. This was done through multi-agency activity directed less at the thieves themselves, but at the disruption of stolen goods markets. The Home Office funded these Targeted Policing Initiative (TPI) projects. This report examines the lessons to be drawn from their experiences, and is intended for practitioners who are considering similar projects.

Title: Targeting the markets for stolen goods ~V two targeted policing initiative projects
The Research Development and Statistics Directorate (RDS)
Development & Practice Report 17
Number of pages:
Date published:
March 2004

North Town

North Town put great emphasis on the collection of intelligence on the local stolen goods markets, representing a substantial shift away from traditional policing priorities. The development of intelligence on local markets took time, taking 16 months to gather a comprehensive picture of the stolen goods network. 

North Town strategies aimed to give a longer-term impact, eg by tackling offender motivation through drug treatment work and changing public attitudes about the the acceptability of handling stolen goods. 

The North Town project used the following tactics:

  • second-hand goods market

  • offender research

  • marketing and publicity

  • working with drug-using acquisitive offenders.

South Town

Like North Town, the South Town project put great emphasis on the collection and collation of intelligence on the local markets for stolen goods. However, the interventions in South Town showed a more systematic approach to tackling the market places. Again South Town also sought to take advantage of marketing opportunities to communicate the message about the consequences of buying stolen goods to the general public. The project also addressed the background issue of the recording of stolen and recovered property. The South Town project used the following tactics:

  • intelligence gathering through:

    • offender interviews

    • survey of local businesses/residents

    • police and local authority survey data

  • voluntary second-hand shop registration scheme

  • voluntary scheme among pub landlords

  • intelligence and surveillance operations targeted at fencing.

  • marketing and publicity

  • property marking


Once the stolen goods markets had been mapped, project planning could begin in consultation with all partners.


Both projects needed to undertake a realistic estimate of their capacity, to look at their research and analysis base, as well as the skills they need to undertake the operational interventions. These skills include:

  • strategic leadership

  • tactical leadership

  • integrated intelligence

  • monitoring outcomes

  • data sharing


Specific tactics needed to be decided at a local level and were dependent on local circumstances. Local considerations included implementation of:

  • intelligence gathering

  • infiltration

  • publicity

  • car boot sale research

  • property marking

  • drug treatment to help offenders


These projects were novel being the first attempt seek to test systematically, in the context of crime reduction, the theory that demand will affect supply ~V if thieves are unable to dispose easily of stolen goods, they will turn to other activities and stolen goods crime would decline. 

For many reasons, it has proved impossible to demonstrate the impact of these projects on crime rates.

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Last update: 7 April 2004