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Living in fear Tackling the cold-calling, doorstep criminals who terrorise the vulnerable is never easy, but were on the case, says Ruth Andrews H ave you or a family member or friend ever been cold called by a doorstep caller? Were you faced with a persistent or aggressive seller, or someone trying to persuade you to have unnecessary or extortionately priced work carried out to your home? Now try to imagine dealing with such callers if you are a frail, 84-year-old, widowed woman with dementia, living alone. That was the situation facing Kit (pictured), and is the scenario facing tens of thousands of householders annually. In Operation Herring, a familial organised crime group (OCG) pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering. They targeted Kit and a man in his 80s, who was also living alone with dementia. Kit was defrauded of 6,000 for roofing work, later valued by an expert surveyor as being worth 25. The second victim was defrauded of more than 70,000, and the only work that could be identified by expert witnesses was the pruning of one tree in his garden. Kits nephew, Michael Hall, said in a victim impact statement: These men viewed her as fair game and preyed on her mental confusion. There is no doubt in my mind that if she had not called us for help that day they would have returned again and again systematically to empty her bank account. I feel desperately sad for the priceless loss she has suffered because of what thesemen did. They may not have physically harmed her, but they certainly took away her life, and that is unforgiveable. Doorstep crime remains a major problem, and a priority for trading standards. It is also one of the priorities in the National Trading Standards Strategic Assessment and Control Strategy. Since October 2013, funding has been provided by the National Trading Standards National Tasking Group for a project team at North Yorkshire Trading Standards, to improve the professions enforcement and safeguarding response to such vulnerable adults. Doorstep crime is a plague in our communities. The rogues who perpetrate these crimes prey on some of societys most vulnerable people, like Kit. Thats why National Trading Standards has made tackling doorstep crime a priority, and is funding this important work, said Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards. The project team undertook a survey in late 2013, which established that 17,000 reports of doorstep crime are made to trading standards in England and Wales annually. However, reporting levels for this crime type are extremely low somewhere between five and 10 per cent so the real figure may be as high as 170,000 to 340,000 incidents. In the vast majority of cases, the victims remain unidentified, unprotected and unsupported . A detailed report of the project outcomes, and a summary of its findings, are available for trading standards officers to view here The National Trading Standards National Tasking Group considered the project report and recommendations, and decided to commission further work during 2014-15. This project is part of a wider programme of doorstep-crime work, set up under the Consumer Protection Partnership. National Trading Standards has also provided support for the 2014 National Consumer Week Good Neighbours Stop Rogue Traders campaign this month, which focuses on preventing doorstep crime by encouragingneighbours, family, friends and carers to look out for those most at risk in their communities. DOORSTEP CRIME PROJECT The project for 2014-15 covers the following areas of work: l Academic research l Engagement with the Consumer Protection Partnership l Support for the National Consumer Week in November 2014 l Intelligence development, particularly in relation to OCGs l Identification of key doorstep crime targets, for enforcement l A three-month trial in the Yorkshire and Humber region to examine all doorstep crime incidents reported and to develop intelligence and the enforcement response with a view to identifying organised crime groups and sending tasking packages to regional and national tasking, for allocation to Scambuster teams l Development of data recording and analysis for doorstep crime l Engagement with government departments, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Home Office, and Department of Health l Develop and share best-practice guidance materials with the profession, and introduce a training package for officers l Work with the financial sector and thirdof Kit was swindled out sector to develop and improve a joint by thousands of pounds response to tackling doorstep crime ruthless rogue traders They may not have physically harmed Kit, but they certainly took away her life, and that is unforgiveable Michael Hall 1 1. Statistics are from the project teams report to the National Trading Standards Board in March 2014, and from surveys conducted with the 166 local authorities in England and Wales. 2. Checkatrade is a free information service that runs on the basis of reputation. It was set up by businessman Kevin Byrne, who was appalled by the activities of rogue traders pouring into Selsey after a tornado in 1998. All member businesses are recommended, background-checked and monitored. H O W C A N T R A D I N G S TA N D A R D S H E L P ? We would like trading been circulated through who is doing some research. doorstep-crime best-practice standards officers to Trustmark, the Federation We also want to know of material you feel it would be engage with our doorstep- of Master Builders, and the any forced labour/slavery useful to develop. crime project via: National Federation of Roofing victims who may be prepared Contractors to gather to be interviewed by the Inform the project team of evidence from legitimate criminologist about how any on-going doorstep-crime Impact Survey Continue trade on cold calling, and they saw things operating investigations of interest, or start participating in the the damage doorstep crime within organised crime particularly those involving survey for new doorstep- has on their trade sectors. groups. Finally, we would organised crime groups. crime victims, and return the It is also hoped this will go like authorities to identify to results to the project team. In out via Checkatrade2. If us doorstep-crime victims project team to sign up to a addition, six-month revisits are trading standards want to especially repeat victims doorstep-crime mailing list now due in relation to those issue the trade survey to who may be suitable for, via doorstepcrimeproject@ victims already surveyed, to local businesses, we would and willing to participate northyorks.gov.uk assess and demonstrate the encourage this. There will also in, interviews with the Newsletters will shortly be impact of trading standards be a further survey for trading criminologist. sent out, featuring up-to-date interventions/safeguarding standards to complete, measures, and to understand to measure their work on Inform the project team, on materials, press releases, and the continuing impact of the doorstep crime over the past an on-going basis, of any links to relevant articles and incident on the victim. year. doorstep-crime best-practice websites. l Householder (Victim) l Surveys Police and regional l Academic research Inform l Best-practice initiatives l Current investigations l Mailing list Contact the safeguarding and investigation initiatives you may have within organised crime units are the project team of any known your local authority, so that For further information, being surveyed to assess their offenders currently in prison, these can be shared. contact the project team response to doorstep crime. who may be suitable for an A Trade Sector Survey has interview with a criminologist l Best-practice material Let us know what types of at: doorstepcrimeproject@ northyorks.gov.uk Credits Published You might also like Ruth Andrews, National Trading Standards 28 October, 2014 Doorstep crime project outcomes project lead on doorstep crime. 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