THE Inspector leading Gwent Police’s brand new initiative – We Don’t Buy Crime – has explained how the project is preventing crime and supporting victims.

Inspector Hannah Lawton is heading up the 10-person department who intend to reduce ‘acquisitive’ crime, which is crime that results in the offender making a profit.

A range of techniques are being deployed, such as handing out crime prevention packs, using technology such as SmartWater, partnering up with local businesses to track down stolen property, and covert operations.

Inspector Lawton said: “What we're looking to achieve is really to protect and reassure communities, but also to target those who are causing the most harm.

“There's got to be a really kind of collaborative approach which encompasses a number of different areas.

“We provide victims of burglary with specific packs including SmartWater, which means that if the property is stolen, we can trace it back to them but also more importantly link offenders to that crime.

“We've also got deterrent signage, so, yes, they've been victims already so it might kind of seem that it is too late now, but research shows us that offenders will return to an area to target it.

“What we need to do is make sure that that area is really secure.”

The police have partnered up with 60 per cent of second hand retailers in Gwent to crack down on the sale of stolen items.

The shops will be given UV torches to check the items for forensic marks and will be given alerts about property that has been stolen in the area.

Arguably the key to a lot of the work being done by the We Don’t Buy Crime department is the use of the forensic marker SmartWater.

SmartWater leaves an invisible mark on items that is linked to a property, meaning if it stolen then it can be easily traced once recovered.

The markings officially last for five years, but Inspector Lawton said that she knows of cases where it has lasted for 15 years.

Inspector Lawton claims research shows that 76 per cent of offenders would not break into a property that has signs declaring SmartWater is used in the area and that cases involving SmartWater have a 100 per cent conviction rate in contested cases.

The crime prevention packs contain at least enough SmartWater to mark 100 items in a property, while the packs for businesses and farms have more.

There are also covert operations in place to catch criminals red-handed.

These operations often involve leaving marked vehicles, bikes and other items in areas that have seen a recent spike in thefts.

Further details would jeopardise the success of such operations in the future, but Inspector Lawton is extremely encouraged by the results of the operations so far.

“We've had some brilliant results,” said Inspector Lawton.

“It's something that has been used in the force previously, it's not a new tactic but what I really wanted to do is make sure that it's really available for Neighbourhood Policing teams to utilise.

“Since we started in May, we've deployed our capture bikes and vehicles 44 times.

“From this, we have arrested 14 suspects, so it's about a 33 per cent success rate which is huge and from that we've had 19 charges.”

Deterrent signage is also seen as a key part of We Don’t Buy Crime.

It might seem like a inconsequential measure, but Inspector Lawton asserted that signs placed in fuel stations to stop people from driving off have proven to be 100 per cent successful so far.

The new measures are funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner and are expected by Gwent Police to reduce the amount of crime and therefore reduce the demands on their officers.

The measures are thought to be necessary as Gwent Police say that crime will increase as the nation moves out of Covid restrictions.

Current chief superintendent Tom Harding had set up We Don’t Buy Crime when he was in West Mercia Police and the success of the initiative has led to the creation of the same project in Gwent.

Gwent Police are the first police force in Wales to adopt this scheme.


The Gwent team are currently sharing their expertise on bicycle theft with a superintendent that leads a national working group who plans to share this in turn to other police forces in the UK.

The Home Office have also asked for the Gwent team to report the best practice for dealing with second hand retailers.

Inspector Lawton said: “We've got processes in place now so we're working with partners to make sure that we're really identifying what's needed and what communities need but also it's a really evidence based proven approach - this works.

“It's been great, actually, the response we've had is brilliant, the response from victims is lovely.

“It's so nice to see the impact we’re having.”

To find out more about We Don’t Buy Crime, visit their website here.