door hanger

Police campaign shows bogus callers the door

4 April 2012

door hangerNorth Yorkshire Police have launched an awareness campaign to target bogus callers and help prevent distraction burglaries.

A distraction burglary is when someone calls at your door, pretending to be an official from an organisation such as a utility company, the ‘water board’, council, or in some audacious cases, the police. They trick their way in and distract you while they rifle through your house to steal money or goods.

The campaign is centred around a video which has been funded by money raised from the sale of a vehicle owned by a gang of convicted distraction burglars.

The criminals’ cash has also funded supporting material to assist older and vulnerable people to keep unwanted callers at bay.

The film shows a reconstruction of a typical distraction burglary and the effect it has on the victim and her family, including her granddaughter.

Elderly and vulnerable people are the main target of these callous and cowardly criminals and the new campaign aims to raise awareness among older people, their families and carers, of how distraction burglars operate and what to do when confronted with an unexpected caller at their door.

The message is simple – Not sure? Don’t open the door! You do not have to let anyone in your house who you are not sure about, even if they claim to be on official business, it doesn’t mean that they are.

North Yorkshire and the City of York has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and although this type of crime is rare in the county, when it does happen, the consequences can be devastating for the victim and their families.

The campaign is spear-headed by Detective Chief Inspector Steve Smith who led a country-wide investigation leading to 21 years’ imprisonment for three bogus police officers.

Chief Inspector Steve Smith said:

A distraction burglary is one of the most cowardly crimes we have to deal with. Those who target vulnerable, older people who are both trusting and often frail deserve, and receive our fullest attention.

By raising awareness among older people that it is not rude to refuse to allow someone in their house who they don’t know, we want to prevent this type of crime happening in North Yorkshire and the City of York.

Having investigated a series of such offences across the country, I have seen only too well, the effect it has on older people.

They can become withdrawn, their health can deteriorate and in some very sad cases they never recover from their ordeal. Older people should be allowed to live in peace without suffering the distress which these people cause. It is beholden on all of us to take notice of those who come calling in these circumstances.

By taking some simple preventative measures, such as locking your doors and refusing entry to anyone who comes to your door who you don’t know, will help stop these criminals taking advantage.

Remember, that if you ever feel threatened by a caller, you must ring the police on 999 – don’t hesitate. As well as protecting yourself, you could help us stop others from being targeted.

Raising awareness among family members, friends and carers is also part of the campaign.


Chief Inspector Steve Smith added: 

We want family members of older and vulnerable people to help them understand that it is not rude to refuse to let people into their homes.

Encouraging them to get into the habit of always locking their doors and using a door chain or spy-hole is another simple way to prevent these offences.

  • The film will be presented by police officers and PCSOs at various engagement events across North Yorkshire and the City of York including day centres, community centres and schools.
  • Any groups or organisations who work with, or organise social events for older people can contact their local Safer Neighbourhood Team to request a visit from an officer who will present the film and handout crime prevention advice and free door hangers
  • A shorter, silent version of the film will be shown on screens in seven libraries across North Yorkshire.
  • A workshop based on preventing distraction burglaries is also being embedded into the Crucial Crew events held across the county for year six pupils.


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