An operation to educate and prevent doorstep crime in Lincolnshire has received funding from Lincolnshire Police and Lincolnshire Trading Standards, continuing until April 2015.
The force held a Doorstep Crime Awareness Conference on March 25 at the police headquarters in Nettleham, where it highlighted the outcomes of Operation REPEAT (Reinforcing Elderly Persons Education at All Times).
Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Neil Rhodes said: “In Lincolnshire, the problem of doorstep crime has long been recognised, especially for the more rurally isolated older people.
“Doorstep crime includes distraction burglary, bogus callers, unscrupulous sales people and scammers.
“The offences are often perpetrated on older people, or more vulnerable members of our community.
“Operation REPEAT is a really successful partnership between Lincolnshire Police, Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Community Lincs.
“The vast majority of the people who are vulnerable in our communities are actually receiving care at home, care from healthcare professionals, and social care staff.
“They are in constant contact with vulnerable people, so if we are able to deliver training to those individuals, then they can really make a difference.
“It’s a really promising approach, because those health and social care professionals are some of the best placed people to monitor those at risk of this type of crime, and nearly 80% of victims already receive those services, so this is a good opportunity.”
Sergeant Caroline Broughton deals with community safety and criminal justice for Lincolnshire Police, working on Operation REPEAT with Trading Standards Principal Officer Lisa Foster and retired Constable Reg Burrell, now of Community Lincs.
Together, in the past 15 months, they delivered training to 360 people in Lincolnshire who are taking care of over 4,200 elderly or vulnerable people across the county weekly.
Sergeant Caroline Broughton said: “In the past, police have normally done crime prevention and maybe target the people that need to know with leaflets.
“Operation REPEAT has gone completely against that way of thinking. We’re actually training the people, professionals, carers and volunteers going into our elderly and vulnerable people’s homes daily or weekly.
“We’re training them in doorstep crime awareness, and they can constantly be drip-feeding the crime prevention messages and hopefully they can be our eyes and ears.
“The professional criminals target the elderly and vulnerable for many reasons.
“Quite often some of them are still in the mindset of doing business on the doorstep, coming from a generation that obviously dealt with callers at the doorstep and dealt in cash.
“These are just callous professional criminals targeting these people because they are an easy source and easy to pray on.
“Research from Age UK shows that only 10% of such offences are ever reported to police, so it’s a huge issue.
“The reasons why it’s not reported is because quite a lot of the elderly fear the perpetrators might be coming back, they might feel intimidated and one of the big fears is what relatives and friends would say.”
Superintendent Mark Housley is also an Assistant Director at Lincolnshire County Council, dealing with youth offending, trading standards and safer communities.
Addressing the conference, he said: “As a police officer, I want to catch these people, I want to convict them and put them away in prison,” but this could be difficult.
He said perpetrators usually target people in their home, looking for clues the person is vulnerable, like an untidy front garden or old-fashioned curtains.
The emphasis should be clearly on prevention, on stopping victims becoming victims, he added.
Brian Steele, a former West Yorkshire Police Detective Chief Superintendent, has worked for the past 13 years to better prevent doorstep crime.
He said: “In the past I did research to look at how best to detect and prevent doorstep crime against older people.
“Everybody is aware that the most victimised persons as far as distraction burglary goes are the white 78-81-year old females who live alone.
“When we have such specific information, it’s important that all agencies work together to make it a safer place for older vulnerable people.
“That very much involved giving older people the necessary doorstep skills to enable them to protect themselves and live safely in the community.”