REGIONAL: Four men arrested in connection with distraction burglaries in Sefton
Three men, aged 39, 51 and 60, were arrested recently on suspicion of committing distraction burglaries committed against elderly residents in the area. A 24-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of fraud offences relating to cold calling. All four men were questioned by detectives and have been released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Detectives at Sefton CID are investigating all the incidents, which have generally involved a bogus repair man or men tricking people into handing over cash after falsely claiming roof tiles were loose or damaged.
As part of an on-going operation to tackle this type of crime residents are being advised to be vigilant and officers are working closely with the local authority, housing associations and tenant groups.
Police and Trading Standards in the area are reminding all residents across the borough to take basic, simple steps to ensure that they don’t fall victim to this kind of burglary.
Inspector Suzanne Demomme, said: "This type of crime is despicable; victims of distraction burglary can suffer terribly both emotionally and physically and it can seriously affect their trust and faith in people afterwards.
"It is vital people remember to check the identity of any stranger who calls at their home, genuine callers will not mind waiting. Help and support is available from the police, local authorities, and utility companies so please make sure you use it. I would also ask that people keep an eye on who is visiting, or knocking of the doors, of their elderly or vulnerable neighbours. Most importantly, if in doubt keep them out
"In these cases the offender or offenders have targeted mainly elderly people who live alone and keep cash in their house by posing as tradesmen. However in these cases it has clearly been a con and the caller is not a genuine council repairman at all and there has not been any work necessary on the victim’s property.
"These criminals are extremely callous individuals who will think nothing of stealing someone’s weekly pension, someone’s life savings, or treasured family jewellery, leaving their victim heartbroken at both the intrusion into their home and the loss of their belongings.
"I would urge everyone in Sefton to be mindful of this issue and to not only be vigilant when answering their own doors to cold callers but also to look out for their neighbours , particularly if they are elderly or vulnerable in some other way.
"People should never feel uncomfortable or awkward about using their door chain first and then asking the caller to wait outside while they ether call the company they say they are from or verify their identity in some other way.
"We are also working with local housing groups, such as One Vision, and tenants associations to organise crime prevention awareness discussions to provide practical and useful advice.
"Our advice will always be that if you have any doubts at all that someone is not who they say they are, do not open the door to them, ask them to wait outside or even leave and call a friend or relative or the police for advice.”
One Vision Housing working with SmartWater have now confirmed the planned introduction of forensic marking kits into their properties in the area.
The high-tech security kits contain a UV fluid that contains a unique code and is painted onto valuables. If those valuables are stolen and later recovered, they can be returned quickly to the owner.
SmartWater also acts as a deterrent to would-be burglars, as it can easily pin them to a crime scene if they are caught with the UV fluid on their skin or clothing.
Kevin Parkinson, Community Safety Manager at One Vision Housing, said: "We have been informed about certain distraction burglaries taking place in the Sefton area and we are reminding residents to check for identification before allowing anyone access to their home.
"If a repair has been scheduled by our maintenance team you will have been notified beforehand, so if a workman arrives at your house unexpectedly please call us on 0300 365 1111.
"Also, in response to a number of boiler thefts from our properties, we have been marking our heating systems with an innovative traceable forensic product from Smartwater. It will allow us to trace our boilers and link criminals to the individual crime scenes.”
A full investigation into these incidents is on-going.
Anyone with information that could help detectives with their enquiries is asked to call Sefton CID on 0151 777 3014 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. To report a crime in progress always call 999. In a non-emergency call 101.
CRIME PREVENTION ADVICE
Many people who call at your door are genuine but some are not. Therefore it is vital to take precautions when you answer the door:
Burglars won't go to the trouble of breaking in if they can just knock and be invited in. So always be on your guard when anyone you're not expecting - a man, a woman or even a child - turns up at your door.
Bogus 'officials' may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the council, gas board, health authority or other organisation.
Bogus 'dealers' may offer to buy your antiques, furniture or jewellery, at what seems to be a good price.
If you want to sell something, choose one or two genuine dealers to value it or ask a friend or relative for their advice.
Bogus 'workmen' may say that they need to come in to check something or make urgent repairs. You also need to be careful of callers who offer to make building repairs or tarmac your drive. Often they'll ask for money in advance; they may even offer to drive you to the bank to withdraw money to pay them.
If you need any building work done, get several written quotes from reputable firms, then decide which one is best. If in doubt, talk it through with a neighbour or someone in your family.
Genuine callers will normally make an appointment first and will carry identification with their photograph on.
ALWAYS PUT THE CHAIN ON
If someone calls at your door:
Check to see who it is by using the spy hole if you have one, or look through a front window
Always put the chain on before you open the door. (If you don't have a chain it's a good idea to get one - they don't cost much)
With PVC doors, it can be difficult and costly to fit a door chain. Check with the manufacturer before you buy a PVC door, that a chain will be fitted
FIRE SAFETY - only put on your door chain as you answer the door - don't keep it on all the time as this could delay your exit in case of fire
Look at their clothing. Some official callers will have a uniform bearing their organisation's name or symbol
If you don't know the caller, ask to see their identity card. Check it carefully, and keep the chain on while you do this. Genuine callers won't mind if you close the door while you do this.
Some public utility services (e.g. water, electricity, gas) operate a password system. Contact your local branch to find out more
If you're still not sure, ask the caller to come back later. You can then check their story by phoning the organisation or company they claim to represent. Look up the number in your own telephone directory. Don't rely on the telephone number on their card - it may be the number of a crook's partner
Bogus callers sometimes work in pairs. Beware of one distracting you while the other steals your property. The best practice is not to let them in
Ensure your back door is locked if you are answering the door to someone you don't know
Watch out for anyone who says they're in a hurry. Don't let them pressure you. If in doubt, call a neighbour or friend
If you have any suspicions at all, don't let them in
If you're still not happy, phone the police - dial 999 - and tell them what's happened. And tell your neighbours
Always put the chain on and use the spy-hole before you open the door
Never let anyone in unless you are absolutely sure they are genuine
Story Source: Merseyside Police