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'We will be relentless'.

Byline: Mike Underwood

A crimebusting hit squad set up to tackle robberies is smashing street crime in a Teesside town.

Middlesbrough police's dedicated robbery squad has helped to slash robbery by more than 40pc since its launch four months ago.

Latest figures show 188 recorded robberies between February and May this year, reduced from 319 during the same period last year.

The staggering reduction has been made by officers targeting prolific offenders through intelligence-led policing.

Detective Sergeant Keith Dee, from the Robbery Squad, said: "I believe our success is because we are successfully targeting the criminals committing these types of offences.

"The individuals or gangs responsible for offences that have such a dramatic impact on the quality of life of decent and law-abiding people in Middlesbrough cannot go unpunished and we will be relentless in our pursuit of these criminals."

He added: "We have had a great deal of success in getting the hardcore remanded and that has sent the message out to others who want to commit street robberies that they will be arrested."

The unit was set up in mid-February to tackle a spate of robberies in the town centre.

Two prolific robbers are now serving jail terms after being snared by the squad.

A 14-year-old was sentenced to more than two years in a young offenders' institution after stealing mobile phones and cigarettes from youngsters during a spate of street robberies.

In another case, a man was jailed for eight years for a robbery in which he threatened a shop worker with a knife, and escaped with around pounds 100 cash.

Police say violent street robberies are rare and most offences reported to police involved drug-related debts.

Det Sgt Dee said another successful tactic has been to ensure all reported robberies are genuine.

He added: "Sometimes malicious reports of robbery are made to police and these are initially recorded as a crime.

"However, after thorough investigation we have been able to prove these offences have not taken place and we have charged people who have done this with perverting the course of justice.

"The problem is it takes as much time to investigate a false report as it does a genuine case."

* Anyone with information relating to robbery can contact the squad on 01642 303136, or by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 25, 2004
Words:385
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