Do your bit to foil £14m doorstep con artists
‘Look out for your neighbours’
NEIGHBOURS are being urged to help thwart doorstep rogues who scam £14million a year from their victims in Buckinghamshire.
County council trading standards officers say neighbours, friends and families reported the vast majority of the almost 200 recorded incidents involving doorstep rogue traders in the past year.
But they are only a tenth of the incidents that take place, so watchful neighbours and friends can play a bigger role in the fight against the scammers by raising the alarm to help to catch the crooks, says trading standards officer Chris Holden.
Known losses to victims in Buckinghamshire were about £1.5million in the year to June 2014, but authorities think the true figure is about £14m.
Mr Holden said: “We need to increase the level of reporting, preferably at least double, so that we can save more victims from parting with their money to these rogues. We’re encouraging more good neighbours to get together in their communities.”
Research shows levels of crime can fall by a quarter where there is an active Neighbourhood Watch group, says Mr Holden. And where neighbours call trading standards or police officers while an incident is occurring, victims can be saved thousands.
The average loss per victim is just over £7,000, but one was defrauded of almost £1m. Trading standards officers know of one person who was scammed a dozen times before the incident was reported and, during the past year, 10 incidents were reported in one hotspot, indicating activity at about 100 homes.
Bucks County Council cabinet member for community engagement, Martin Phillips, said: “We’re stronger together to beat the doorstep scammers. They’re evil and they prey on the vulnerable.”
This paper is backing the drive to find more of the county’s good neighbours, which was launched as part of National Consumer Week on Monday and aims to beat rogue traders.
MEMBERS of a close knit community can do more than provide friendship to one another; they keep an eye out for each other’s property and welfare. ANDREW JACKSON reports on a shining example of this type of community in Chalfont St Peter
WELCOME to Monument Lane, possibly the most neighbourly road in Bucks. Led by Kate Southworth and David Alder, neighbours from 57 houses in the Chalfont St Peter street have united in the fight against con artists and criminals.
The close knit community has a street watch roster of daily patrols that look for unusual activity, strange parked cars, and suspicious goings-on.
And it seems to be working. It is the type of road thieves and scammers hate. Old fashioned neighbourliness which is all too often consigned to the history books as modern Britons tend to mind their own business and keep themselves to themselves. But not in Monument Lane. Take a walk down this road and you will see notices up warning that look-out patrols will note registration numbers – a clear sign that ne’er-do-wells are noted, scammers are spied on, and rogue traders will be routed.
The Neighbourhood Watch patrols started in January, mobilised following visits by rogue traders in the road.
‘We just thought ‘enough is enough’,” said Kate. ‘We’d do something ourselves to protect our road against the doorstep rogues. The community couldn’t just sit there and expect our stretched police force to be there all the time for us. There’s been tremendous community support for the scheme – it’s great to see all ages pulling together.’
Kate said people sign up to patrol one day a month, and the intelligence gathering – registration
numbers and unusual sightings – has already paid dividends.
“One of our residents on patrol spotted a parked car she hadn’t seen before. She noted the number and the driver immediately drove away. Who knows what our patrols may have stopped!”
Patrollers are advised simply to make notes, not to approach suspicious people, and to call the police on 101.
Tony King, Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator for Chalfont St Peter, is working through his community with a team knocking on doors on Sunday afternoons. He believes that good neighbours working together and looking out for each other, is an effective way to combat doorstep rogues.
About half the roads in Chalfont St Peter have a Neighbourhood Watch scheme running.
“Neighbours are very positive when we call, and we’ll often get a handful of residents to the set-up meeting.
“All it needs is a handful of enthusiastic neighbours.
“Running Neighbourhood Watch isn’t onerous, especially as most people can use email to keep in touch and share intelligence on local issues.”
Tony’s aim is to spread Neighbourhood Watch throughout the village and, as it grows, he plans to get co-ordinators together in a support group to share ideas, good practice and generate confidence.
Neighbourhood Watch in Tony’s area is co-ordinated by the police and Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils, and residents interested in forming a group of good neighbours can contact Tony on firstname.lastname@example.org