12:37 16 November 2009
A government scheme has been launched to stop people becoming victims of distraction burglars over the festive season.
The national campaign is aimed at older people and students, who can be vulnerable to distraction burglary- where a criminal tricks their way into a victims home often by posing as a utility worker. Approximately 9,000 thefts using these techniques take place each year.
Local authorities will be providing free Secure Your Home packs, and face-to-face advice will be available through road shows across England and Wales.
The campaign is part of a £15m scheme by the Home Office to address crimes such as burglary and robbery, including a wide range of measures combining tough enforcement police action, support and education to the public.
A £6.5m Safer Homes Fund has been introduced to pay for handymen to visit up to 60,000 homes in 93 priority areas and install home security measures such as window locks and door chains.
Former 'The Bill' actor Graham Cole, who played PC Tony Stamp, is supporting the six-month campaign to help people protect themselves with advice and practical support.
He said: "The most important piece of advice anytime someone knocks on your door is if in doubt keep them out.
Home Office Minister Alan Campbell admitted that the economy is likely to play its part in a rise in this type of crime:
"Burglary has fallen 54% since 1997 but we know crimes like this could face upward pressure during a recession, which is why we have taken action with a £15m 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."
Organisations Age Concern, Help the Aged, Neighbourhood Watch, Foundations, National Union of Students and the Community Alliance are supporting the campaign.
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
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. Dont 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 youre less likely to care.
4. Make sure you use your door chain when answering the door and keep it on until youve seen official identification if you dont 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. Dont 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, dial 999 and report it to the police.
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