Detectives investigating a series of 35 burglaries where older people have been targeted are re-appealing for the public’s help in identifying people they would like to speak to in connection with the incidents. Detectives are also issuing a photo of a car which they are trying to locate as part of their investigation.
The incidents, which involve a team of offenders carrying out distraction burglaries, have occurred across the South East of the country since mid-August. They have occurred in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey and London. The victims have been mainly aged in their 80s and 90s, with one victim aged 94.
In the vast majority of cases, the offenders have created a false reason to gain entry to the property to steal, such as investigating a burst pipe, or repairing a water leak. It is believed the people responsible for the crimes are operating in a team of three or four.
During one offence in Stevenage at the home of an 82 year old woman, a man knocked at her door and said ‘Council emergency – we have to switch the water off otherwise there will be a flood’. Fortunately being quick thinking and suspicious the victim asked to see proof of his identity. He refused to show her and she told him she’d check with the council so the man left.
Speaking about the incident, the woman said: “I am very fortunate, unlike the others, I did not believe the man’s story and did not allow him entry. I knew when he refused to show me his ID card that he was not genuine and I felt very angry that someone would do such a thing – they target the elderly because they’re more likely to let them in.”
In November police released images of three men they would like to speak to in connection with the incidents. They have now released more information and a photo of the distinctive vehicle which they believe has been seen at the scene of some of the crimes.
The vehicle, a 3 door silver Audi A3 sport, is distinctive because it has a sunroof which is not a common feature on this model. It is believed that a number of cloned number plates have been used on the vehicle during the offences.
Detectives from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s specialist unit, Operation Manhunt, who investigate distraction burglary crimes and burglary where the victim is aged 70 or over, have been working with other police forces to investigate these crimes.
Detective Inspector Ben Wright, from Operation Manhunt is leading the investigation. He said: ” We believe these men, who could be from the Islington area, could greatly assist the investigation.
“With the car in particular, we’d ask people to contact us if they believe they have sold this car to anyone, may have seen any suspicious incidents involving the vehicle, or have seen it parked or abandoned.
“Please do get in touch as soon as possible. Any information, however small it may seem, could prove vital to the investigation.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Hertfordshire Constabulary via the non-emergency number, 101 quoting Operation Parka. You can also leave information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
People are urged to take note of the following advice to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of distraction burglary and doorstep crime:
Not sure? Don’t open the door! – If you are not expecting anyone and you don’t recognise them, don’t let them into your home. Try to communicate with the caller without opening the door and ask them to return at a time when you have someone you trust with you.
If you are expecting a caller – If a person you are expecting comes at the time you have arranged, ask to see their identification before you let them in.
Never keep large amounts of cash at home. Put your money in an account where it is safe.
Never consider having work done on your house or garden by anyone who knocks on your door. You can find a reputable trader through Trustmark 01344 630 804 or visit www.trustmark.org.uk
Call 999 if you suspect a crime is in progress or you believe someone is acting suspiciously around your neighbour’s property.