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Friday 2 July 2010

Crime news


As the warm weather continues, local residents are being reminded by Cheshire East Council’s Trading Standards to be extra vigilant over the coming months.

The longer days can result in an increase in cold-callers and the warmer weather can tempt residents to leave windows and doors open.

Bogus callers and distraction burglars often take these opportunities to gain access to a person’s home and unscrupulous traders will get their victims to pay for unnecessary but costly work.

Cheshire East Council acknowledges some traders are honest and genuine. However, many people find the process of being cold-called (whether genuine or not) to be intrusive and distressing.

Historically, bogus callers, distraction burglars and rogue traders target the elderly; the vulnerable; those living alone; and those who have recently suffered bereavement.

Examples of bad practices associated with cold calling and doorstep crime include:

  • pressure selling;
  • unfair contracts;
  • overpriced or substandard home maintenance or improvements;
  • phoney consumer surveys;
  • bogus charity collections; and
  • bogus officials

A ‘Bogus Caller’, also known as a ‘Distraction Burglar’, is someone who calls at your home unannounced, to trick, distract or lie with the intention of stealing money or valuables.

In Cheshire Police Eastern Area Police Officers and Trading Standards officers targeted locations which were “hot spots” for Rogue Trader activity while Police Staff, members of Cheshire East Council Community Engagement Team, housing associations and other partner agencies carried out work to raise public awareness of the issue.
Inspector Catherine Mitchell said, “Rogue Traders and other types of bogus callers prey on the elderly and the vulnerable. They are totally unscrupulous, with no regard at all for their victims. The hardship and distress they cause means nothing to them.
“Our officers tackle this issue on a regular basis and, with Trading Standards, have achieved some notable arrests over the past few years. Courts share the public concern and disgust for this type of crime and have imposed some substantial prison sentences.
“That removes some of the criminals from the streets, but we should never lose sight of the fact that a lot of these crimes are preventable, if the potential victims are taught what to do when they get a stranger knocking at the door.”
Mark Cotton, one of the Eastern Area Crime Reduction Advisers said, “The simple way to beat this type of criminal is not to open the door to them. Whether they are trying to carry out a small job and charge a ridiculous amount for it, or whether they are using the pretext of carrying out work simply to gain access to the house to steal, they cannot do anything if the householder sends them packing.
“Neighbours and relatives can all help in this. They need to be aware of the problem and keep an eye on anyone who may be vulnerable.

“Local organizations can assist by spreading information about ways to beat the activity of rogue traders. Any community group who would like a talk about the issue, or who wants literature about it only has to contact their local Crime Reduction Adviser.”

You will be aware that the story of being an ex-offender trying to make good is not a new one in terms of trying to sell items at the door. Some may state they are linked to probation to further validate the story. I can confirm that the local probation service never enlist individuals to go door to door selling items. Over the years some people engaging in this type of doorstep sales have used this as a distraction burglary technique, whereas others may be trying to sell items at an over inflated price to make money for themselves by gaining the sympathy of the homeowner. Unfortunately, it is difficult to ascertain where on this scale someone at your door falls from the brief exchange you may have at your front door. As such the best advice in terms of all doorstep callers is:

1.) If someone knocks at your door and you are not expecting anyone have a look who it is via a spy hole / window.
2.) If you don't recognise the person it is your choice as to whether you even open the door to them. If you do not know them and don't feel comfortable opening the door do not feel obligated to do so even if they have seen that someone is in. If you do intend to open the door, please ensure you lock your rear door before doing so.
3.) If you have a door chain make sure you use it when opening the door - it provides an extra layer of security for you.
4.) If someone is trying to sell goods and services politely refuse and close the door.
5.) If someone claims to be of a more official capacity deal with them using the advice that has been forwarded in previous emails with regards to doorstep callers. If anyone needs this advice reiterating please let me know.

If anyone has anyone knock at their door who appears suspicious please do not hesitate to contact the police via 0845 458 0000 as soon as possible after they have called. Please provide whatever details you can about the caller to the police so that any free patrols can make a search of the area for individuals.

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