Police identify mystery vans causing social media storm over dog theft fears in Northampton

Both vehicles have been checked out using ANPR and are not being treated as suspicious

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 3:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 4:04 pm
Police vehicles are equipped with high-tech number plate recognition,cameras

Police say they have identified two mystery vans which locals on social media suspect of being involved in stealing dogs.

Photos of a blue Mercedes Sprinter van and a Renault Sprinter apparently taken in villages near Northampton carried warnings from owners spooked by a recent rise in pet thefts across the county.

But Northamptonshire Police said both have been checked out using cameras from their Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras.

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One is a legitimate scrap metal business while the other is from outside Northamptonshire and has not been to the county this year.

A spokesman for the force said: "We are aware of images circulating on Facebook of a blue Mercedes Sprinter van possibly linked to dog theft.

"It has been suggested that this van has been seen driving around Northampton.

"To clarify, this vehicle has NOT been to Northants at all this year.

"There is a similar looking blue Renault van that has been into Northampton recently collecting scrap metal. This is not connected to dog theft.

"If the Mercedes van comes near Northamptonshire, we will be stopping it."

Various social media posts claimed dog walkers had been followed around Brington.

Another post said the van had been spotted acting suspiciously in Grange Park and West Hunsbury while others claimed men had been posing as RSPCA inspectors and even filming dog walkers in Harpole.

But Northamptonshire Police insist fixed cameras' strategic placement plus the number of their vehicles fitted with the high-tech ANPR equipment would make it highly unlikely the Mercedes van would not have been spotted if it had been in the county.

ANPR systems use fixed cameras and some mounted on police vehicles to read vehicle plates and instantly check database records to see if they could be stolen or of interest.

Police issued warnings to pet owners earlier this month following a spike in pet thefts during the Covid-19 lockdown.

And their advice remains for anyone with concerns to contact them online HERE or by calling 101.