Police are warning the public, particularly the elderly, to be on their guard following a spate of distraction burglaries in the district.
Health professionals are being offered free training in how to help potential victims.
Officers say there is a similar pattern to most of the attacks. Strangers call at the door with a plausible story, the elderly occupant is confused, the thief gains entry, and money and items are stolen.
In one incident two men called at the home of an 80-year-old female saying a neighbour had asked them to check her water supply.
A few days later two men called on a 76-year-old man saying the water was off down the road and they needed to check his supply.
In another incident, a woman, claiming to be from social services, gained entry after asking an 80-year-old woman for her national insurance and pension details.
In all cases the thieves appeared legitimate to the victims.
Police say people should keep their door chained at all times and only admit people to their homes if they are sure who they are. They have issued a code of practice.
- Make sure doors are locked - even when you are in the house, or are expecting a caller. It only takes a few seconds for someone to walk in and take a wallet or purse that has been left lying around.
- Always put the door chain on before you open the door. Alternatively, use a door bar, which is less fiddly than a chain. You can get either from a DIY store and they are inexpensive and easy to fit.
- Find out what the caller wants and donít feel pressurised into letting them in.
- If the caller is claiming to be carrying out maintenance work or from a utility company - such as a water supplier - check the callerís ID card and telephone their company. Genuine callers will be happy to wait while you make the check but donít use the number given on the card because if it is a bogus caller the number may be that of an accomplice. Find the number in the phone book instead.
- If you still feel uneasy, donít let the caller in, or ask them to call back later. You can then ask for advice from a family member, friend or your local police and arrange for someone to be with you if youíve asked them to return.
- Never buy items or pay for services in cash at the door. It lets people know that you have money in the house.
- Never give work to trades people who call at the door - always use a reputable and recommended local firm for such work as gardening, roof repairs and surfacing driveways.
- Donít keep large sums of money at home. If you know anyone who does, encourage them to save their money in a safer place such as in a bank, building society or post office account.
- If you are in any doubt or believe that a crime has been committed, call the police on 999.
Meanwhile, health professionals who visit the elderly in their homes are invited to attend a series of workshops aimed at preventing distraction burglary. They are designed so health professionals can drop into any of the sessions at any time between 11am and 2pm.
- Tuesday, June 15, Douglas Tilbe Centre, Hall Grove, Welwyn Garden City
- Wednesday, June 16, The Jim McDonald Centre, High View, Hatfield
- Tuesday, June 22, Wyllyotts Centre, Darkes Lane, Potters Bar
- Wednesday, June 23, Wavell House, Cell Barnes Lane, St Albans
- Wednesday, June 30, Harpenden Park Hall, Leyton Road, Harpenden
These are free workshops to equip health workers with the right tools to assist in reducing the risk of distraction burglary happening to someone you know.
If you would like to attend, please telephone Sandra Nolan on 01727 796005.
The workshops have been organised and funded by Hertfordshire Constabulary, Welwyn Hatfield Council, Hertsmere Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership, St Albans City & District Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Age Concern Hertfordshire, Victim Support Hertfordshire and Hertsmere Borough Council.
You can discuss this issue in the forum.
If anyone has had a caller at the door and was suspicious (or if you see someone suspicious calling on an elderly neighbour), you are asked to contact any of the following numbers:
8 June 2004
- Herts police crime desk - 01707 638102
- Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
- The local community police team on 01707-638112.
Bogus social workers in the area - police - 28 January 2003
Distraction burglary warning - 18 January 2003
Bogus workmen warning - 11 January 2003
Doorstoppers against bogus callers - 1 December 2002