A boy, aged just 15, was one of five prolific crooks followed by police during a controversial crackdown.

Officers visited the homes of the five villains – all of which have several convictions for burglary and handling stolen goods – across Basildon and Pitsea and handed them a letter warning they will be followed, filmed and photographed by police for the next seven days.

Under the crackdown, codenamed Operation Bright Shadow, police will follow the crooks around, recording their every move, details of who they associate with and vehicles they travel in.

The hardline operation aims to stop the criminals from committing crime and build up intelligence around their movements and criminal associates.

As part of the crackdown, the criminals will also be offered help from drug and alcohol workers for any addicitions.

Insp Simon Gray, of Pitsea police, said: “All five of the targets have had a string of previous convictions for a variety of offences, and most of them have been previously convicted of burglary or handling.

“Our intelligence suggests that this small minority of people could be responsible for committing a significant amount of burglary across Basildon.

“It is therefore our duty to the residents of the district to act robustly and proportionately to stop more burglaries wreaking misery on people’s lives.”

Yesterday the Echo went with police on the first day of the crackdown.

The team of three officers went to the home of one convicted crook on Rochester Way, Craylands., The man in question was not in, but he was promptly told about the police visit by his girlfriend.

The crook then arrived at Pitsea police station minutes later to complain.

Officers spoke to him, before following him and his girlfriend in their car as they drove around Basildon.

Insp Gray said police had taken legal advice over the human rights of the five crooks before carrying out the crackdown.

He added: “Some of the people will say this is against their human rights, but we have to weigh up their rights with those of members of the public that are being burgled who also have human rights.

“The rights of the victims far outweigh the human rights of the people committing the crime and causing misery for others.”

Operation Bright Shadow was first used by police in Basildon in May 2009 when, in the space of a week, they saw a 44 per cent drop in burglaries.