Friday, 3 August 2012

Tackling Doorstep Crime

Cardiff Council’s Trading Standards team is campaigning to raise awareness of doorstep crime, rogue trader and distraction burglaries throughout Cardiff.

Doorstep criminals use a variety of tactics to deceive residents to get into their homes. They frequently claim to be from the water board, an electricity company, local council or other organisations and they will try to pressurise or confuse the person who answers the door. Often they may carry an official looking Photo-ID, and wear an official looking jacket or overall.

Rogue traders are also just as likely to knock on the door without any warning as they are to be invited to the home. The key way to identify a rogue trader is the way they devise their contracts, or rather, the things they fail make clear in them. Critically, any contract concluded at residents’ homes legally has to have cancellation rights provided in writing; a failure to do this is a criminal offence. Similarly, a failure to offer a reasonable price constitutes a banned practice under Trading Standards legislation.

Most worryingly, many rogue traders approach home-owners by offering to do regular maintenance work; this work is often entirely unnecessary, and the trader can even cause damage that wasn’t there before.

In the case of distraction burglaries - a crime often linked to rogue trading - whilst the home-owner is at the door, an accomplice may be entering the premises elsewhere, quickly searching for cash and small valuables they can sell on. In other cases, the distraction can even lure the homeowner away from specific rooms whilst the criminals carry out their theft.

Cabinet Member Councillor Lynda Thorne, who is responsible for Housing, Communities and Social Justice in Cardiff, said: “Tackling cold callers and putting a stop to these truly despicable doorstep crimes is a key priority for this administration and, on a personal level, something I feel very strongly about.  “These are calculated crimes carried out by unscrupulous people who are only interested in making a profit, quite literally at the expense of others.”

“The price that is paid by those who have been targeted by door step criminality is not just limited to financial loss but also includes emotional trauma and scarring, which can be equally if not more difficult to address. Everyone can do their bit to help and we would therefore encourage communities to work with us on this.

Keeping an eye out for neighbours and loved ones, particularly if they are elderly or vulnerable, and reporting any suspicious activity to us won’t cost you a thing but it may well help to save someone from losing their life-savings or suffering the emotional pain of becoming a victim.”

Trading Standards recommends the following tips to avoid the Rogue Traders:

Before they knock at the door:

· Consider setting up a password with your utility suppliers

· Trading Standards and South Wales police support a 'Nominated Neighbour' scheme whereby vulnerable members of the community can nominate a neighbour who will check the callers' identity and then return with the caller

· Consider installing a wireless intercom with a Bogus Caller Button or Pendant Buttons with the Community Alarm Service at Cardiff Council

· Do not be afraid to chain your door or speak to caller while your door is locked

· If in doubt, keep them out

When they knock at the door:

· Be wary of any business literature that only gives a mobile phone number. They are difficult to trace

· ID Cards are very easy to fake on a computer. Use a phone number from the telephone directories or directory enquires to see if the caller is genuine

· If you let someone in – stay with them at all times

· Never part with money, documents or other things whatever they say

· Get more than one estimate for work

· Official organisations usually write first. Have you had a letter?

· If you feel afraid, harassed, threatened or intimidated by a caller, call the Police on 999 straight away

Cardiff Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Ashley Govier added:

“Our strategy for tackling this issue is wide ranging and we intend to cut these criminals off from all angles and at all levels. By working with other agencies and the wider community we will make Cardiff a no-go area for the people involved in this type of crime.”

South Wales Police Detective Chief Supt, Stuart Mckenzie said: "The information the public provide us with is critical in the successful detection and prevention of such crimes. I would urge anyone who comes across such operators to contact the police so we can stop these people from profiting at the expense of innocent people.”

For more information, or to arrange a free informative talk for your community group,

contact Cardiff Trading Standards on 02920 872 059, or

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