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Police target doorstep criminals after more than £100,000 stolen in Devon last year

By Rich_Booth  |  Posted: April 15, 2013

Trading Standards

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Bogus callers, rogue traders and distraction burglars operating in Devon and Cornwall are being targeted by a new task force.

Devon County Council has joined forces with Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council and Cornwall Council’s Trading Standard’s Teams and Devon and Cornwall Police to combat the region’s bogus doorstep criminals.

The aim of the newly formed ‘Devon and Cornwall Doorstep Crime Reduction Partnership’ is to help prevent residents becoming victims of doorstep crime by raising awareness, particularly among more vulnerable residents, and encouraging people to report incidents.

The campaign, which is being supported by BBC local radio and Age UK, is designed to empower people to say no to bogus callers and report any suspicious activity in their local area to the police or trading standards.

Traders who refuse to leave someone’s doorstep when asked could be committing a criminal offence.

Residents are being advised on how best to deal with cold callers and stay safe in their homes, as well as given information on how to collect vital evidence to help the police and trading standards identify and catch suspects.

The action follows news that the amount of money lost to doorstep crime in parts of the Westcountry is thought to have increased considerably during the past two years.

Devon County Council’s Trading Standards team has reported an increase in complaints received from residents about rogue traders. In Devon just over £50,000 was reported to be lost to doorstep crime in 2010, whereas the figure for 2012 was over £100,000. Their statistics show that the average amount of money lost in a rogue trader incident has risen in the last 4 years from £889.32 to £1160.31 with over £100,000 reported lost in 2012. The statistics also show that the average age of victims has risen in the same period.

However, these figures are thought to be just the tip of the iceberg. The actual amount of money people have lost is thought to be far more as it is believed only a tiny percentage of doorstep crime is ever reported due to victims being too frightened or embarrassed to come forward.

Free information packs are being made available to households across Devon and Cornwall through local Police stations and libraries to raise awareness of the dangers of doorstep conmen who use common tricks to betray  people’s trust.

They contain information for residents about protecting themselves against being conned by doorstep criminals, such as checking caller’s ID, using a door chain or simply not opening the door if you’re not sure who it is, as well as getting a second opinion before agreeing to any work and checking the telephone numbers provided.

In particular households are being encouraged to display the ‘No Cold Caller’ stickers contained in the packs on their front doors to warn would be rogue doorstop sellers and cold callers that the occupants are not prepared to do business on the doorstep.

The campaign is also highlighting the rising issue of distraction burglary, where householders are distracted by a caller whilst their accomplice enters the house, often at the rear. It is well established that distraction burglaries use common tricks such as being asked to check the water, gas or electric.

Steve Gardiner, Special Investigations Unit Manager of Devon County Council’s Trading Standards Service, said:

“Doorstep Crime is a high priority for Devon Trading Standards. We are all too aware of the lasting impact that such crime can have on victims’ lives, often damaging their confidence and sense of security in their own homes. We also know that victims often become repeat targets of these unscrupulous gangs.

“I am pleased that through this partnership, we will be working even more closely with the police and other Trading Standards Services in the region to deal with doorstep crime together, making use of all available resources to close the net on criminals and make this region a difficult place for them to work.”

If you have information about illegal doorstep activities, you can either contact police by calling 101 or email 101@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk.

Alternatively you can talk to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

Anyone wanting work carried out on their homes can contact a Trading Standards approved local business at www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk

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