Spring is in the air, and as well as the anticipated arrival of daffodils and songbirds, the new season all too often heralds a host of unwelcome visitors.
It is a sad fact that the longer days bring with them a rise in the number of crimes against householders – often the more vulnerable residents – from heartless villains who have no care for the misery they leave as they disappear with what are often their victims’ life savings.
Cold callers, unqualified workmen and bogus officials are among the rogues who are all too keen to take advantage of trusting householders led to believe that a particular job is essential, or that a request for personal information is legitimate.
Latest reports include bogus electricity company officials and fake council officers; and there is a growing trend of rogue traders offering work to roofs and gutters. This work, which is often unnecessary and poorly executed, has led to extortionate demands for payment, with prices escalating into thousands of pounds. And it leaves householders with added expense when repairs to the initial shoddy workmanship become necessary.
The council’s trading standards team is working closely with Croydon police to combat the rise in these crimes, and asks that residents work with them to report their concerns.
Utility companies offer a password scheme that ensures a meter reader calls only if requested, by appointment. On arrival at the address, the meter reader will give a password that has been prearranged with the resident. All utility company representatives hold identification, and residents are urged to check the identification before allowing entry.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“The application of a little common sense goes a very long way in protecting householders from these sorts of crimes.
“The major piece of advice is that you shouldn’t deal with cold callers. If you’re door-knocked and told that work is needed urgently to your property, stop and think about it. Don’t take their word for it. Ask a family member or a friend for their recommendations – and then get three quotes in advance of any work being undertaken.
“I’d ask that you send any flyers that you may receive through your letterbox to our trading standards team – this keeps officers aware of what’s going on across the borough and could help in the event of criminal prosecutions.
“Watch out for calling cards and leaflets attached to your front door and remove them. Look out for neighbours – remove any fliers that may be attached to their porch or door. Thieves will often use these markers as a trigger – any that haven’t been moved could indicate that the householder is away.
“Finally, just be a good neighbour – look out for each other and report your concerns.”
Inspector Kevin Fitzgerald, of Croydon police, said: “This is a good example of the police and council working together, pooling their expertise for the good of the community.
“This sort of joined-up working is the best way to tackle crime that has vulnerable people as its primary target and is most effective when it has the support of residents who are ready to play their part by letting us know about suspicious cold callers, and sending in leaflets and flyers that are left on their premises.”
Flyers and leaflets should be sent to:
Trading standards, 10B Bernard Weatherill House, 8 Mint Walk, Croydon CR0 1EA.