Council looks out for Ealing's vulnerable

Free spy holes protect residents from distraction burglary

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Ealing Council is rolling out free security equipment to the homes of the borough’s most vulnerable residents as part of a pilot scheme to help protect them from becoming victims of distraction burglary.

More than 100 people aged over 70 years have received spy hole intercom devices so they can see and speak to unexpected callers without having to open their door. A further 70 people have registered so far, and the device will be fitted to their homes in coming months.

The £16,500 project is funded by Ealing Council’s Trading Standards and Community Safety teams and the Safer Ealing Partnership. Supported by Ealing Police, it is initially being rolled out to the Hobbayne and Northfield ward areas. Contract locksmiths Pinner Locks are installing the devices.

Distraction burglars often pose as officials from utility companies, tradespeople, police officers, council officers, or other official visitors. They will often dress smartly or wear a uniform. Once they have gained access to a property, they pretend to be doing work and steal cash and other valuables.

Councillor Sue Emment, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, said: “Distraction burglars prey on easy targets and some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

“This deceptive crime can be extremely distressing, particularly for older residents.

“We are working hard with the police and other partners to raise awareness and ensure residents are protected against this despicable and cowardly crime.”

Making Ealing’s communities safer is one of the Council’s three priorities. The Council’s other two priorities are cleaner streets and providing value for money services.

Between 1 January and 22 May this year, there were 48 alleged incidents of distraction burglary across Ealing borough, compared to 39 alleged incidents during the same period last year.

Sergeant Dave Williams of Hobbayne Safer Neighbourhood Police Team said: “Statistics show that the typical victim of distraction burglary is most likely to be an elderly female living alone. It is for this reason that this project is so important.

“By offering modern crime prevention equipment to those most likely to need it, we are hoping to reduce the number of distraction burglaries being committed in Ealing borough.

“I am pleased to add that since the roll out of this project across Hobbayne ward, there have been no reported distraction burglaries in this area.”

Residents who would like to find out more about the project should contact Georgina Wady, Community Safety Liaison Officer, on 020 8825 7018.

In addition, Ealing Council’s Trading Standards team, in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and Consumer Direct, has produced 2,000 distraction burglary prevention leaflets and stickers.

They are being distributed to vulnerable older people across the borough via the Council's meals service, Ealing Carers Centre and to people identified by the borough's Safer Neighbourhood police teams.

The sticker, which can be affixed to the inside of front doors, reminds residents not to open their door to strangers and that they have every right to ask people to leave.

Don’t become a victim:
Don't open your door to cold callers. "If in doubt, keep them out." It is your right to turn them away. If you are at all suspicious of anyone, do not hesitate to call the police.
If you do have to open the door to speak with unknown callers, make sure the door chain or door bar is put on first. Remember that you are under no obligation to speak with any cold callers. If you are not happy, you do not need to open your door.
The safest place for your money is in the bank. Do not keep large amounts of cash at home.
Many utility companies will have a verified password scheme. If you have registered for this scheme and the caller cannot give the password, do not let them in.
These burglars will often say that they are from the 'water board', 'gas board' or 'electricity board'. A genuine caller would never use such terms because "boards" ceased to exist when those industries were privatised. The burglars use phrases like this because they think that elderly residents will be familiar with them. If genuine, they will be from one of the privatised companies and will have photo identification to prove it. There should be a number to call so that you can confirm the caller is genuine. Any legitimate caller or official will not mind waiting outside while you ring the number to check.



May 30, 2007