Demand for dogs during the pandemic triggered a massive rise in thefts, with some breeds fetching up to £4,000 each – four times pre-Covid prices.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has set up a taskforce that the Prime Minister said would ensure that the ‘criminal justice system is dealing properly with anyone who is so malicious as to steal a dog’.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, opposite, Mr Johnson – who owns a white, male Jack Russell cross called Dilyn with his fiancée Carrie Symonds – says the crime is too often dismissed as trivial and on a par with shoplifting.
Boris Johnson today promises a ‘ruthless’ crackdown on dognapping and other pet crime. Demand for dogs during the pandemic triggered a massive rise in thefts, with some breeds fetching up to £4,000 each – four times pre-Covid prices
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, opposite, Mr Johnson – who owns a white, male Jack Russell cross called Dilyn with his fiancée Carrie Symonds – says the crime is too often dismissed as trivial and on a par with shoplifting
But he adds: ‘I believe strongly in the broken windows theory – that if you want to stop serious crime, then you must also be ruthless in dealing with offences that might seem second order to some, but which in reality cause huge pain and grief to the victims.’
The new measure is part of a broader crackdown on crime.
Mr Johnson said that police, partly helped by Covid which has restricted criminals’ movement, are winning the war on county lines drugs gangs which use dedicated phone lines to send mass texts to customers and organise networks of couriers, often children and vulnerable adults, to move drugs from cities to smaller towns.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland (above) has set up a taskforce that the Prime Minister said would ensure that the ‘criminal justice system is dealing properly with anyone who is so malicious as to steal a dog’
‘Overall, it looks as thought there is about a 20 per cent reduction in the prevalence of these gangs,’ writes Mr Johnson. ‘But we are only just at the beginning of this fight; we must do more.’
He adds: ‘We need to bring the hammer down hard on the gangs – at every stage. So when the drugs mules take the trains, they have to contend with British Transport Police who are equipped with drug-sniffing dogs.’
Mr Johnson, who vowed to ‘take out the gangsters’, also announces:
- Overall crime is trending down and 90 per cent of county lines gangs in Norfolk have been ‘rolled up’;
- Towns such as Swale in Kent and Bangor in Wales are now free of the scourge of county lines gangs;
- New police powers to tackle street violence are being reinforced with tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offenders;
- Since the start of the year, police have recovered 27 stolen dogs in Hertfordshire, 26 in Surrey, 83 in Suffolk and 80 in Carmarthenshire.
Dog ownership has soared since the first lockdown, with 2.2 million people getting one in the first six months of the pandemic. But new figures have also revealed that dog thefts have risen by a fifth in the past year.
Data from 37 of Britain’s 45 police forces shows an estimated 2,438 dogs were reported stolen last year, a 19 per cent increase on 2019 when there were 2,026.
Pensioner, 66, is left ‘broken’ by violent dognapping
Pensioner Mike Jasper was attacked and had his sprocker spaniel Ted (above) stolen while walking on a common
Pensioner Mike Jasper was attacked and had his sprocker spaniel Ted stolen while walking on a common.
The 66-year-old was assaulted from behind by two men who made off with his beloved three-year-old pet in December.
The retired police officer was knocked to the ground and one of the attackers stood on his wrist until he let go of the lead while walking on Cannon Hill Common in South London.
Mr Jasper’s dog had helped him cope with depression and his daughter Lucinda told how the theft had severely damaged her father’s mental health.
‘Since Ted’s been taken, Dad has just been completely broken,’ she said.
‘He can’t leave the house. He’s suffering really badly from depression and as a family, it’s really upsetting to see because he had made such good progress with his mental health.’
Charities believe the overall figure is significantly higher. Volunteer group DogLost reported a 170 per cent leap in the number of pets reported stolen from 172 in 2019 to 465 last year.
Katy Bourne, the Police and Crime Commissioner in Sussex, has called for the theft of pets to be categorised separately to improve police data.
She found via an online survey that more than a fifth of 124,000 respondents had either had a pet stolen, or knew someone who had, during the past year.
Almost 65 per cent of respondents said they feared taking their pet for a walk during the day.
Staffordshire bull terriers were the most popular breed targeted by thieves, with 97 stolen in 2020, accounting for 21 per cent of all dogs with named breeds stolen in 2020.
Mr Johnson says that he imagines some non-dog-owners will think the police might be better employed elsewhere.
‘That is to miss the point,’ he writes. ‘If you are cynical and nasty enough to steal a dog, in an organised gang, then you will almost certainly be party to other types of crime as well.’