Do your bit to foil £14m doorstep con artists

‘Look out for your neigh­bours’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by Lor­can Lovett lor­can.lovett@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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 tonyjohnk­ing@gmail.com

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