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UK Campaign on preventing distraction burglaries begins

The Home Office : 13 November, 2009  (Company News)
The UK Home Office launches national campaign for protection against distraction burglaries and offers useful tips to tenants
A national campaign aimed at helping older people and students protect themselves from distraction burglars has been launched with a role play class led by The Bill star Graham Cole.

The class at the Peckham Settlement is part of a six-month campaign to provide advice and practical support to elderly people and students. These groups can be vulnerable to distraction burglary, where criminals trick their way into a victim's home often by posing as utility company workers. Approximately 9,000 distraction burglaries take place each year.

Free 'Secure Your Home' packs are also available and face-to-face advice will be provided through road shows in England and Wales. This work complements the tough action the Home Office is taking to tackle offenders.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell, said: "Burglary has fallen 54 per cent since 1997 but we know crimes like this could face upward pressure during a recession, which is why we have taken action with a £15 million package of support for the most vulnerable areas and communities.

"But 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."

Actor Graham Cole, who played the role of PC Tony Stamp in The Bill, said: "A role-play class is an easy way to help people learn the skills and gain the confidence to deal with bogus callers. By running through a few simple scenarios we will show them exactly what to do when someone knocks on their door.

"However the most important piece of advice anytime someone knocks on your door is if in doubt keep them out."

Andrew Harrop, Head of Public Policy for Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: "Distraction burglary is a heartless crime which can have a devastating impact on older people, both emotionally and financially.

"Distraction burglars are calculating thieves and can be very convincing, so it is important that people take simple security precautions before letting a stranger into their home."

It is important to make sure that callers are genuine and the advice from the police is to:

* keep doors locked, and use a door chain to keep doorstep visitors out;
* check identification properly ensuring the phone number matches the number in the yellow pages or call directory enquiries to be sure; and
* sign up for and use a free Personal Password from your utilities supplier

The launch forms part of a wider winter campaign to reduce the 9,000 incidents of distraction burglary each year. Local and national organisations throughout England and Wales are providing practical support to people who are more vulnerable to burglary including older people, students, young people and those in shared accommodation. There will also be a series of regional road shows around the country to raise awareness of distraction burglary.

For more information people can register for a free Secure Your Home pack by calling free phone 0800 456 1213 and quoting 'Burglary Pack'.

Top tips for deterring Distraction Burglars

1 Check ID Properly - check the phone number matches the number in the yellow pages, phone Directory Enquiries or keep a list of useful numbers such as electricity and gas companies near your front door. Don't feel embarrassed leaving them on the doorstep - they expect their ID to be checked.

2 Sign up to the Priority Services Register with your utility providers. This will give you a unique password, among other things, that only you and they know - so you can be sure people at the door are who they say they are.

3 Keep your garden preened and the front of your house looking neat - bogus callers are more likely to target houses which look unkempt as they think you're less likely to care.

4 Make sure you use your door chain when answering the door and keep it on until you've seen official identification - if you don't already have a door chain contact your local Neighbourhood Police team and they will put you in contact with agencies who can help you.

5 Make sure your back door is locked if you go to answer your front door - thieves can work in pairs with one distracting you while the other slips in the back.

6 Don't keep large amounts of money in your home.

7 If in doubt keep them out, only let them in when you have double checked that they are a genuine caller.

8 If you think you have been targeted by a distraction burglary tell a friend, neighbour, caretaker, Neighbourhood Watch representative and the police.

9 If you think a bogus caller has called at your house call 999 and report it to the police.

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