Distraction burglary - an evil crime

THE tragic death of Thelma Avis in Colchester has served to highlight what people already know – that distraction burglary is among the most despicable of crimes.

THE tragic death of Thelma Avis in Colchester has served to highlight what people already know – that distraction burglary is among the most despicable of crimes.

In a bid to stop such a tragedy ever happening again, the East Anglian Daily Times has re-launched the Safe in Your Home Campaign, aimed at helping to stamp out the callous crime.

Run in partnership with both Suffolk Constabulary and Essex Police, the campaign was originally launched in June last year after a 183% rise in distraction burglaries.

Although the latest figures show a fall in the crime in Suffolk so far this year, 84 down from 117 in the same period in 2002, it is clear that cold-hearted criminals are still targeting the region's elderly and vulnerable.

Chief Insp Clive Joseph, head of the Suffolk Police Community Safety Unit, said: "The numbers of this type of burglary are falling and hopefully that's because the message is getting through to those most at risk.

"But we are told by the people that know best that the potential victims of this sort of crime need to be told about the risk often and repeatedly – we need to get to them as much as we can."

Most Read

Mr Joseph warned that distraction burglaries are more likely to take place during the week, with offences increasing over the summer months.

He added: "The impact that this crime has on its victims is absolutely devastating and we must get our message across.

"What we are trying to do is make our advice a way of life for people who are potential victims. We want them to always challenge people at the door, ask for and question identification, as well as making sure they are locking all their doors all of the time.

"Above all, the main point we are trying to get across is not to let people in if you are at all unsure, and to never keep cash in the house."

Mr Joseph said officers are working with different groups, including Suffolk County Council and Help the Aged, to raise awareness of the crime.

He said: "The people that are perpetrating these crimes are the most callous and devious of all criminals – they have absolutely no feelings towards their victims.

"The people most at risk are grandparents and mums and dads who should be enjoying their twilight years, and they should be able to do that in the safety of their own homes without these callous individuals coming along."

Helen Taylor, information manager for Age Concern Suffolk, which is also backing our campaign, said: "We are so sorry to hear of Mrs Avis' death following the bogus caller incident at her home, and would like to pass on our condolences to her family.

"Age Concern Suffolk works closely with the Police and Trading Standards department to pass on the important 'Stop, chain, check' message to local senior citizens.

"We certainly do not want to scare people, but rather empower them to know what simple procedures to follow so that they are in control of their doorstep."

Our campaign will be running alongside a similar scheme launched by BBC Radio Suffolk, called 'Safe and Sound.'

Alan Bramwell, Suffolk Action producer for the radio station, said: "This is an area we are working very hard on.

"The case at the weekend brought home just what a terrible crime it is."

The EADT has produced special laminated cards containing advice for the public, which people can keep to hand if faced with a door-to-door caller and are unsure what to do.

They will be available from the end of this week at the EADT's offices at Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Stowmarket and Ipswich, by sending an A5 SAE to Michelle Dorrell, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 IAN or by calling 01473 324867. They will also be included in Radio Suffolk's information packs.