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Vulnerable pensioners in Sheffield targeted by conmen

Vulnerable: Police urge pensioners to ask for identity cards.

Vulnerable: Police urge pensioners to ask for identity cards.

  • by Claire Lewis Crime Reporter
 

BURGLARS have tricked their way into the homes of 109 old folk in the last 10 months - targeting the elderly especially to look for cash and jewellery.

BURGLARS have tricked their way into the homes of 109 old folk in the last 10 months - targeting the elderly especially to look for cash and jewellery.

Figures disclosed to The Star reveal 45 such offences were reported in Sheffield between April last year and the start of this week.

There have been a further 26 in Barnsley, 20 in Rotherham, and 18 in Doncaster.

But the number is down on the 134 offences reported over the same period the year before, and the detection rate has risen by eight per cent to 20 per cent.

South Yorkshire Police said the offences were only a fraction of the total 7,955 homes broken into between January and December last year, but were given top priority by officers.

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Stopford, responsible for driving down burglaries in South Yorkshire, said: “These offences are very, very rare - they account for only a small percentage of offences reported to us - but it’s because of the vulnerability of the people attacked that we take it so seriously.

“We put more resources into this type of burglary than any other serious acquisitive crime.”

He said criminals often pose as utility company officials to trick their way into pensioners’ homes.

“A lot of victims taken in like this feel foolish and can be reluctant to report it, but these are cunning criminals and very believable because they tend to be well practised,” he said.

“These offences can have a tremendous impact on the lives of victims and we do not underestimate that.”

He said bogus officials often travel all over the country looking for their prey.

“They often use the same tactics to get into homes - claiming they are ‘from the water board’ or other utility companies and doing work in the area,” added DCI Stopford.

“They might work in pairs, with one knocking on the door and taking the occupant into the house to ‘check on something’ while the other slips inside behind them.

“They are usually very quick, and do not walk out with televisions or anything like that, it is usually cash and jewellery.”

DCI Stopford urged residents to keep their doors locked and to admit workmen only when pre-arranged appointments have been made.

He said identity cards should be checked, and residents should phone utility company head offices to check that callers are genuine.

“Genuine utility company representatives will not mind, and the police would rather receive 10 phone calls about workmen who prove to be genuine than one about a crime having been committed,” the police chief added.

He said police forces around the country share information on offences and suspects, knowing they travel from county to county.

DCI Stopford said each offence is also publicised internally at South Yorkshire Police when offenders are active in the county in the hope of spreading the net and catching the culprits before they go to ground.

Anyone with information about bogus officials should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

CRIME PREVENTION ADVICE

* Keep doors locked at all times

* Do not answer doors to unknown callers

* Ask callers for identity cards and ring their head office

* Use password systems operated by some utility companies

* If in doubt call South Yorkshire Police on 101

 

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