The other day I was checking in on my Twitter timeline to see what mischief my followers were up to. From time to time I get people asking advice and noticed a message from one follower suggesting that there had been some suspicious callers visiting houses in Darlaston.
As the person reporting had clearly been concerned enough to make contact with ourselves – if only through Twitter – I then thought what might other members of the public do in a similar situation, and what should they do?
First of all, a quick story. We go to all sorts of jobs and see all sorts of different things, many of which I’m sure we’d rather not have seen. I’ve dealt with people who have suffered a range of misfortunes from loss of property to loss of life. We do our best to deal in a professional way and try not to take things home with us at the end of the shift.
The one job that did annoy me – that I did take home – was a report of a bogus caller that I attended a few months ago. A male had approached the house of two very elderly, very frail housebound ladies and informed them he had to do some urgent drainage work in their garden. He cut a single branch from a tree, talked them out of hundreds of pounds to cover his expenses and then to add insult to injury, charged them ninety pounds each for ‘weedkiller’.
Now when it comes to a drunken assault or a desperate drug addict shoplifting to feed their addiction, there’s no excuse but at least there is some level on which the crime can be understood other than the offender is simply acting maliciously.
With a person preying on the vulnerable, I really struggled to explain how someone could sink low enough to stand in a someone’s front room and soberly deceive a ninety year old victim out of their savings.
Because I, and every officer I work with, is so keen to prevent these sort of crimes happening and to arrest those responsible, bogus callers and distraction burglaries are high amongst our priorities.
To start with, there are a range of helpful tips to follow available over on our Safer Homes website. Top recommendations include keeping your door chain on, carefully checking ID, confirming their story with the company they claim to be representing and if in doubt, never letting them in.
The best advice I’d give though is that if there’s something making you suspicious about a caller then not only do you close the door but you phone 999 immediately, let us know what’s making you uncomfortable and give us the best description you are able of the person’s appearance.
This may seem contrary to what many people might the 999 service is there for but consider this – our operators are in the best position to judge our response and by making the call, you may well be preventing in imminent burglary or fraud taking place in your area.
For me arresting a bogus caller is right up there with taking drunk drivers off the road and I’d happily check out ten callers who turn out to be legitimate if doing so means we catch the one who isn’t so the next time they come knocking, do the right thing and call us. You never know what you might prevent.