Doorstep Crime: Know the SCAM

Campaign: Doorstep Crime - Know the SCAM

Launch Date: December 2016

Gwent Police launched a new campaign to educate residents within Gwent on ways to help prevent doorstep criminals from targeting their home.

The campaign, that launched at the local 'Knit and Natter' group in Ebbw Vale aims to educate residents on ways to help prevent doorstep criminals from targeting their home.

Between January and October 2016, Gwent Police recorded 26 crimes of distraction burglary and attempted distraction burglary across the West of the Force (Caerphilly, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent).

96% of victims were aged over 50 years old.

These offences have usually included two or more people attending the address and distracting the occupant with a variety of different excuses. Whilst distracted, a further person will enter the home, carry out searches and steal the occupants property.

The offences can often have a long term effect on the victim, leaving them feeling frightened, unsafe in their own homes and ashamed because they have fallen for the con.

As part of the campaign, the daughter of a 90 year old woman who has been a victim of doorstep crime in Gwent this year, is urging residents not to be complacent when it comes to home security, and don't ever think it won't happen to you or your family.

In an open letter to the residents of Gwent, she reminds people of the devastating consequences of doorstep crime, both short and long term.

Open Letter

Dear resident,

I'm writing to you as the daughter of a 90 year old victim of burglary or, what I've recently learnt to be, doorstep crime.

The day it happened, everything was a blur, I just couldn't believe it - as time goes on you reflect back on it in detail, it will never leave your mind.

In June 2016, after her regular shopping trip with her son-in-law (my husband), my mother was dropped home at around 11.10am, where she put away her shopping and got ready for an afternoon out with friends. My husband returned home, on the same road in what I would describe as a quiet village in the Caerphilly borough. By 11.40am, my mother had been burgled.

My mother, who at the time was 89 years old, was sitting in her living room when she saw a man pass her window and knock at the front door. After answering the door, the man claimed that he had accidently caused damage to the back of her house. This was his way of causing the initial distraction of my mother.

The man, in his early twenties, maliciously duped her into thinking he was being kind and looking after her interests. He claimed his mother would pay for any damage caused. He cruelly helped her up and down the steps of her garden to check the damage.

When she couldn't see any issue or damage caused, he helped her down the garden steps and claimed she would see it better from her back bedroom.

While she had been in the garden, a second man entered her home. He ransacked her bedroom and stole personal items, money and sentimental jewellery. Fortunately, she wasn't hurt during the crime, but the long term effects have been devastating...

My mum, as time has gone on, has noticed that her wedding and engagement rings, her necklace and gold earrings have gone. It's things you wouldn't perhaps use often, then a couple of months down the line, like this weekend, it was my mother's 90th birthday. She went to get her special watch to wear for the occasion... but it was gone.

The loss of these irreplaceable, sentimental items have a long term effect. It is a constant reminder of what happened that day.

A ring that belonged to my dad was also taken. This was very precious to my mother after he died suddenly at the age of 69. It's things like this that have a huge impact because you can't even put a price on it - it's so sad as they're not even going to get much for it.

To try and comprehend what happened and their motive for doing it makes me feel sick to my stomach. Especially that they targeted her bedroom; it was an invasion of her privacy, that's where she sleeps.

Everything was thrown everywhere, a case that had my mother's documents in, sentimental letters from my grandmother from the 1930s, things I have never seen. Losing all these precious memories, it has been a massive ordeal.

Her handbag was also stolen from the hallway, they had taken the cards and cash. This creates hassle because you have to ring the banks and building society but at least those things can be replaced. Some of the things they took can never, ever be replaced.

My mother was tricked into thinking that this was a nice, young lad, trying to be helpful. These people are real opportunist thieves. In a half hour window of my mother being dropped off the crime had taken place. If it had been a bit earlier or a bit later, there would have been people with my mother.

Mum has been on her own since the age of 62 and is used to being very independent. A few evenings ago the fire alarm dropped from the ceiling, immediately she thought somebody was in the house - it's taken away her confidence and her independence. This was never an issue before. She now has disturbed sleep and then there's the constant worry, is it going to happen again? Has my mother locked all the windows and doors? These are all things that are going through my head daily. I've been affected, my husband has been affected, my children, friends and family.

In my mother's generation people were brought up leaving doors open, people would come and go and they would put their trust in everyone - I now don't trust anyone but the main thing I want people to take from this is that they cannot become complacent about their security.

I'm grateful my mother wasn't hurt, but this has been a massive ordeal for our family. I know crimes like these are rare in Gwent, but I hope that people read my mother's story and learn from this incident so they can prevent the same happening to them or a loved one.

Inspector Sarah Greening added: "It was during my time as a Police Sergeant within a Neighbourhood Team in the Caerphilly Borough that I first saw a spate of distraction burglaries taking place. Unfortunately, crimes like these happen literally on your doorstep.

"Distraction burglaries usually involve two or more criminals. One will knock the door and distract the resident with some sort of lie, while the other criminal or criminals will enter the home, looking for items to steal.

"We have excellent teams in place to investigate these sorts of crimes and deal with offenders, but this campaign is to help raise awareness of these incidents to prevent them happening in the first place. Criminals are using devious new ways to target residents in their home and people need to be aware and vigilant.

"I think a lot of people would want to go and have a look if somebody knocked at their door and said; "excuse me, I've damaged the back of your property". These people are cunning, convincing and they are devious - that's their nature. They will say they've caused damage, they'll befriend you and, like in this case, they'll even appear kind and caring while distracting you away from your front door.

"Any genuine person who calls at your door will be happy enough for you to verify their identity or wait for you to ring a member of your family or a neighbour.

"You can't become complacent and think crimes like this won't happen in your community, because they will. This happened in a quiet village in the Caerphilly borough in broad daylight.

"We want to engage with the type of people these criminals target, which more often than not is those over fifty. We also want to reach the younger generation who can pass on the messages to their parents/ grandparents.
"Thankfully, becoming a victim of crime in Gwent is rare but it is our job to raise awareness to try and prevent any sort of crime taking place.

"We often tell people to lock windows and doors but part of this campaign is to let people know how these criminals operate and make them aware of the devastating consequences these crimes can have.

"Over the next week the 'Doorstep Crime - Know the SCAM' campaign uses real life, recent examples of ways in which these criminals have unfortunately targeted victims in Gwent. When it comes to doorstep crime my message is simple; know the SCAM. Stop, Check, Ask, Make the call."

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, said: "Scams have a devastating impact on the lives of our vulnerable and elderly citizens within Gwent. There have been numerous examples of where people have been harassed and/or manipulated to part with their hard earned savings by these despicable criminals.

"Through good joined-up partnership working and raising awareness about the dangers and impact of these scams, swindles and doorstep crime, we can, together, make it harder for these criminals to exploit our vulnerable and older citizens."

Jane Hunt, from Age Cymru - Connect Gwent explains: "Campaigns like this are so important. We need to make sure people, especially the elderly are kept aware of security issues that could affect them - in particular these sorts of doorstep scams. The more we can highlight this sort of crime, the better. It needs to be at the forefront of people's minds.

"We also need to let people know where they can go if they feel intimidated in any way, or if they feel they've been scammed by doorstep criminals. Age Cymru can offer support and ongoing support to make sure the elderly can feel safe at all times.

"We can make sure security checks and energy checks are conducted free of charge and even benefit checks if they have been a victim of this sort of crime so their finances are secured."