Distraction Burglary is defined as any crime where a falsehood, trick or distraction is used on an occupant of a dwelling to gain, or try to gain, access to the premises to commit burglary.
In the year to April 2004, there were 15,113 reported incidents of distraction burglary UK, where thieves entered homes by distracting the occupier in some way and then stolel cash or valuables. They often work in pairs and the elderly are favourite targets. While one does the talking, the other rummages through personal belongings looking for cash and valuables to steal. The average age of victims is 81, 60% are women and the majority live alone. This crime may have a serious impact on the victim’s confidence and may lead to a decline in their general health.
Bogus callers, as they are often called, are usually very plausible and smooth talking.They appear in many different guises, posing as utility workmen, pretending that they need to check electricity or water, or that their car has broken down and request the use of the telephone to call for help. They have been known to use children to assist in their deceit.
Regardless of the reason given, you need to ask for some identification or proof to ensure they are genuine. Look at their clothing; most official callers wear a uniform with their organisation’s badge on it.If in doubt keep them out.
Hints and Tips on Distraction Burglary
- When someone knocks at your front door, make sure that the back door is locked. Occasionally thieves work together with one keeping you busy at the front door, while the other comes in the back way.
- Have a wide angled viewer fitted in your front door, or look out of your window, so that you can check whom the caller is first. Alternatively just open your window a little and talk to a stranger that way, thus remaining protected.
- Always put the door chain on before opening the door and talk through the opening as sometimes the villain is ready just to rush past you.
- Keep the chain on the door, while asking callers to show you some identification.If you are still unsure, telephone the organisation they claim to represent. Look in the telephone directory or at a recent bill received from the organisation, rather than ringing the number they may give you.
- When they have gone and you have closed the door, take the door chain off again. This is important for your own safety, should anyone need to get to you in an emergency. So the primary rule is, never encourage “cold callers” and if you don’t know the person don’t allow them in.
- Be wary of so called trades people offering building or drive repairs at the door, as this is a current trick against elderly people, leading to outrageous charges for the work. If encouraged, these people tell other criminals who will then try their luck too.
A new Distraction Burglary UK campaign was launched by the Home Office on 7th March 2005, to raise awareness of this crime and suggest ways to protect people from becoming victims of crime in their own homes.
Contact your local council, social services or Age Concern centres, who can provide further information to help the elderly regarding bogus callers.. They may also be able to assist with door viewers and chains, or supply a personal alarm, which connects with an emergency response centre.