Crime reduction officer Sue Loaker, police sergeant Phil Priestley, and community safety officer Charlotte Homent gave a very useful presentation tonight at the Pavilion in Sutton about staying safe at home.
Sue Loaker started by explaining what makes a property a target for criminals: high walls and hedges in front so that it’s not obvious if criminal activity is in progress, and easy access to the back of the house.
So do go for
- low fences and planting in the front of the house
- a good lockable gate (at least 6ft) to deter entry to the back
- motion sensor lighting as high as possible on the building
- ‘dusk till dawn’ bulbs in fittings
- padlocked sheds and outbuildings with obscured views of the contents
- trellis which is difficult for intruders to climb on, and which snags fingers and fabric.
Home CCTV can be a deterrent, though often intruders will just pull up their hoodie. And burglar alarms can also work, provided you actually use them. But the most important thing you can do to keep your home safe is to deny unwelcome visitors easy access to the back of your home.
Doors and windows need good locks (remove the keys), and you can also obtain window shock alarms from Sue at the police station for a small charge. They can be fitted for older residents through the Bobby scheme.
Intruders will visit the bedrooms first, looking for items including cash, jewellery, photography equipment, and small TVs. Sue can supply useful solutions for keeping items safer at home; but the best place for large amounts of cash is always the bank.
If you are worried about a nearby premises which looks as if the occupants might be vulnerable to crime, the new Community Eyes and Ears scheme is worth a visit. Phil Priestley also recommended following ‘Policing East Cambridgeshire’ on Facebook, and you can also sign up to eCops to receive regular email updates from the local policing team.
Charlotte Homent from the county council gave a useful over view of scams: unsolicited contacts from people making false promises to con you out of money. This can be on the doorstep, by phone, by email. On the doorstep, it can be rogue traders or distraction burglars, using time pressure and plausible patter, arriving in unmarked vans, with no landline phone number to give out. Watch out for neighbours who may have fallen for their wiles, and call 101 if you need to. Scammers can be persistent, aggressive – and it’s not rude for you to refuse to answer the door, or to put the phone down on them. If you’ve been tricked before, it’s more likely that your number will be on lists circulated among dodgy dealers.
Only about one in twenty scams is reported, whether through embarrassment or just that the victim doesn’t realise they have been scammed: through text messages or ‘phishing’ emails allegedly from your bank, or people posing as Microsoft or BT Openreach. Every year between £5 and £10 billion is lost in the UK to scammers, and half of over-60s have been targeted.
Keep your door locked, and if someone knocks, use the chain before opening, and check the ID of visitors (don’t phone the number on the ID card as it could be bogus). Many utilities offer a scheme whereby they will agree a password with you which their staff must give when they visit.
If you really do need work done on the house or garden, get three quotes, and use workmen from schemes like Buy With Confidence, Trusted Trader, or Rated People. Don’t pay up-front.
If you’re being pestered on the phone, one member of the public recommended BT Call Guardian.
Charlotte and her team can help local residents set up ‘Good Neighbours’ schemes to help communities look out for themselves and each other, and can supply door stickers, leaflets and other materials.
But for all this, we were reminded that East Cambridgeshire does have one of the lowest rates of crime in the country. So while we need to be vigilant, we should try not to have nightmares.