Lewisham residents are being warned of a spate of “distraction burglaries” in the South East over the last five months, seven of which occurred in Lewisham, one in Greenwich, one in Bexley and one in Croydon. The latest case occured on 29th May.
Detectives from Lewisham Burglary Squad are appealing for witnesses and information following 10 such incidents.
The burglars typically pretended to be from the council or an official from a company attending to fix pipes or drains or fit de-humidifiers. In some cases one suspect has distracted the victim whilst the other has gone upstairs and in other cases victims have been deceived into handing over large sums of money.
In one case a 90 year old woman handed over £4,000 to the suspects. Most of the burglaries were committed in the afternoon between 13:30 and 15:45 the first one was in January this year.
The suspects have been described by police as two white males. The one who distracts victims is described as: “Aged between 40 and 50 years, 5 “6/5″10 inches in height with dark hair, wearing a black suit and spectacles, with a London accent.”
The second suspect is described as: ” Aged between 20 -25 years, 5″6 inches in height usually dressed in dark clothing, sometimes seen in a blue boiler suit and dark woolly hat, with an Irish accent”.
Detective Constable Carl Hindle of the Lewisham Burglary Squad said: “These men are clearly operating in the South East preying on the most vulnerable sections of our society. We urge anyway who knows of their whereabouts to come forward as quickly as possible to take them out of action and prevent them from striking again. We urge everyone in the community to be on their guard against this type of offence and I appeal to anyone who cares for vulnerable relatives & neighbours to help get the message across that you should not agree to any work being carried out that you have not sourced out yourself. If you’re not confident they are legitimate don’t even let them enter your home.”
The police have asked us to remind residents that bogus callers succeed because they sound believable, so don’t be fooled. Make sure in your own mind that they are whom they claim to be by following these simple steps::
- Anyone from the council, the police or an official will always have documentation or ID to prove who they are.
- Ask for proof of identity. Genuine tradesmen should carry an identification card with their photograph on. Check this carefully. Shut the door and ring the company that they claim to be from.
- Utilities now offer a password identification system. Any caller from one of these companies should be able to give a pre-arranged password as additional proof of identity.
- All police officers carry a warrant card with their name, rank & photograph. To confirm an officer’s identity the public are encouraged to dial Lewisham Police on 101 or contact your local Safer Neighbourhoods Team
- Think before you open the door – use your chain and spy hole or look out of the window to see if you recognise them
- If you decide to open the door, put the door chain or bar on first. Keep the bar or chain on while you are talking.Don’t use the number on their card. Instead, find the company’s number in the phone book.
- Beware of callers who attempt to distract you by claiming that they have seen something untoward in your rear garden or somewhere which may encourage you to leave your house – they may have an accomplice awaiting this distraction.
If you are not convinced of the identity of the caller, don’t let them in. Ask the caller to come back later and arrange for a friend, relative or neighbour to be present on their return or ask the caller to contact this person. Residents wishing to find out more information about cold calling zones can contact Lewisham Council Trading Standards on 020 8314 7759.
Anyone with information that can help trace the suspects in relation to this incident is asked to call DC Carl Hindle on 0208 284 8415 or alternatively call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
If you have been a victim of this type of crime then please call 101 or dial 999 in an emergency.
Lewisham residents who would like a “No cold-callers” sticker should contact Lewisham Trading Standards
Click here to find your local Safer Neighbourhoods Team.