TWO sneaky thieves clamber into a Sheffield flat through an open window, unplug an expensive laptop computer, and make their escape with their haul - except this time was a little bit different.
It could be a scene from any devastating break-in anywhere in the city - and with their hands gloved and their faces masked, the pair no doubt thought they’d got away with it.
In fact the duo were being filmed - and carried out their crime in full view of secret CCTV cameras planted in the flat by police.
And the property they targeted was just one of several across Sheffield which has been set up with the latest surveillance technology.
The aim is to snare the burglars prowling the city’s streets looking for easy targets to break into.
South Yorkshire Police ‘sting’ properties have also been fitted with SmartWater sprays - which squirt burglars with an invisible substance which stains skin and clothing but shows up only under specialist lighting.
All the equipment inside the properties is also marked with SmartWater, and each house or flat has its own unique DNA-style code to help police link stolen goods back to specific crime scenes.
Today police warned criminals they could have no way of knowing if the next home they break into might in fact be a trap.
The properties are kitted out just like everyday homes, with valuable laptop computers and mobile phones left out on display.
And the traps have been set up in areas of the city where there have been spates of break-ins - including Endcliffe, the Norfolk Park student village, Parson Cross and Highfield.
Detective Chief Inspector Zaf Ali, responsible for the policing of serious acquisitive crime in Sheffield, said: “These properties look like any dwelling, a student flat or a family home.
“You would be hard-pressed to realise nobody really lives in them.
“We have set them up in areas which are suffering from burglaries, and we want offenders to realise these properties are operating across the city.
“We have taken advantage of advances in covert technology to kit them out in a way which helps us identify offenders.”
The approach is similar to the ‘sting’ cars used by police in the past, which have been successful in snaring prolific car thieves on the lookout for valuables such as satellite navigation systems.
DCI Ali said just a few burglars are responsible for a large number of Sheffield break-ins, and added he is determined to catch the prolific offenders wreaking havoc across the city.
“These people have no respect for anyone’s property - they just want anything they can sell on quickly for drugs,” he added.
Detective Inspector Chris Singleton, who is also involved in the operation, said students were particularly vulnerable so South Yorkshire Police are working with universities to stress the importance of safety.
“Police officers, PCSOs and ambassadors keep their eyes open and if they see an open window for example they will close it, but residents need to take responsibility for security,” he added.
South Yorkshire Police crime figures show an average of 700 break-ins, thefts of cars and from vehicles in Sheffield every month.
Between April 2007 and March 2008 there were 14,605 such offences, which dropped to 9,434 last year.