Guest column: We must work together to stop the despicable doorstep menace

Martin Phillips, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement
Martin Phillips, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement

You know the format. You’ve heard the sales patter. ‘We’re just working up the road and noticed you’ve got a couple of loose roof tiles.’

It’s with words like these that many hundreds of elderly and vulnerable residents get drawn into a doorstep scam.

This is one of the lowest forms of crime, but it has a very high incidence rate, and over a year the scammers can make six figure sums from outrageous overcharging for house repairs, maintenance or gardening they don’t do properly or don’t do at all!

It makes me very angry that our residents fall prey to doorstep criminals. It worries me that only one in 10 victims actually report the crime.

Our Trading Standards team share my anger and frustration that this kind of crime costs our residents around £5.5 million a year. So you can understand our enthusiasm to be involved in the strong multi-agency anti-doorstep crime campaign during Rogue Trader Week last month.

These are our clear messages:

> Please report suspicious doorstep callers.

> Set up a No Doorstep Selling Zone - to guard the neighbourhood against rogue traders.

> Become a Community Champion - to watch out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours.

Between 2010 and 2012 we received more than 400 reports about doorstep crime. And the reported losses were £26,000 shy of a million pounds. As only one in 10 victims report incidents, it’s not difficult to see how we reach an annual loss figure in excess of £5m.

There’s no magic wand to rid our neighbourhoods of this despicable crime - I wish there were! It’s by being alert, redoubling our vigilance, reporting our suspicions, that we’ll make headway against these criminals.

We’ll continue to pursue these rogues vigorously, and if we can catch them red-handed, it makes prosecution so much easier. But for this we really do value residents’ help.

It’s my vision that together we can make Buckinghamshire a no-go area for the scammers.

> Report suspicious doorstep callers to Buckinghamshire Trading Standards (01296 382649), or the Consumer Advice Line (08454 040506), or the police on 101.