Wigan and Leigh officers took part in a force-wide operation to catch a gang of burglars who stole computer equipment worth thousands of pounds from schools across the region.
Samuel Grimes, of Georgina Court, Benjamin Grimes, of Tintern Avenue, both Bolton, Mark Rhodes, 30, of Adrian Street, Moston, and Christopher Moore, 29, of Wolsey Street, Heywood, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary.
The impact their crime spree has had on these schools has been massive, and can not only be measured in financial termsDet Insp Charlotte Cadden
Samuel Grimes, 24, was jailed for two years and eight months, Benjamin Grimes was jailed for seven years, Rhodes, 26, was jailed for six years and six months and Moore was jailed for three years and four months.
The court heard how the gang targeted 26 different schools across the North West, committing burglaries in multiple locations across Greater Manchester, such as Bolton, Bury and Salford, as well as Liverpool, Wakefield and Rossendale.
Operation Anglesey was an investigation by Bolton borough officers assisted by Wigan, Leigh and Bury officers, who were able to link together these 26 different burglaries due to similar methods used by the gang during each break-in.
Typically the gang would use the same modus operandi in each crime, with a member of the group visiting the school during the day and removing an alarm sensor from the main external doors.
This would disable the system and ensure the alarm would not work effectively when it was set at the end of the school day.
On some occasions the gang members would even engage school office staff about potential places for their own children, in order to distract the staff while they stole the door sensors.
The gang would then return when the school was empty, breaking in through the unsecure door and stealing laptops, iPads and computer equipment and then sell on the equipment and split the profits, with the stolen goods often being sold across the world.
When the investigating officers used the ‘Find my iPad’ application for one of the stolen items, they were astonished to discover it had ended up in China.
The gang were responsible for tens of thousands of pounds worth of computing equipment being stolen over the course of 2015.
Detective Inspector Charlotte Cadden said: “This is a superb result for our officers, who have worked incredibly hard to bring this gang to justice.
“The impact their crime spree has had on these schools has been massive, and can not only be measured in financial terms.
“Obviously the cost to the various education authorities has been huge, but the impact these thefts had on the school children must also be acknowledged.
“Many of those children had irreplaceable school work saved on these devices, and that is now lost forever thanks to these men.
“Their crimes affected a huge number of children across the North West, and this gang are fully deserving of the substantial custodial sentences handed out by the judge today.”