Crackdown targets rogue traders in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 19 Oct 2011 at 4:00 pm

Rogue traders and pushy doorstep sellers were being targeted in Brighton and Hove today as police and trading standards officers took part in a national crackdown.

Sussex Police and trading standards officers from Brighton and Hove City Council took part in joint patrols, checking traders who were working at private addresses.

They also worked from a checkpoint by Preston Park in Preston Road, Brighton.

There, they were joined by staff from

  • City Clean
  • the Highways Agency
  • the Vehicle Operator Standards Agency (VOSA)
  • the Revenue and Customs road fuel testing unit
  • the Environment Agency
  • the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

During a similar national day of action last year nearly 300 people were arrested, property worth £140,000 was recovered and nearly 9,000 vehicles were checked.

Sergeant Chris Lane said: “In Sussex, police, working with trading standards and other agencies, are using intelligence and automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to seek out vehicles used by people suspected of being involved in rogue trading activity.

“The scale of the problem is difficult to quantify as often victims do not report offences and the offences reported can be recorded in several different ways, including fraud, theft and intimidation.

“But anecdotal evidence makes it very clear that this is an issue that law enforcement needs to focus on.

“Trading standards officers in the joint patrols will be checking on traders they see working at private addresses to ensure they are complying with the relevant legislation.

“We find that sometimes the people engaged in this activity can also work as distraction burglars, posing as officials to gain access to property and steal cash, often from elderly and vulnerable people.

“That type of crime has thankfully gone markedly down in Sussex over the past 18 months or so but the threat is still there.

Targeted

“So part of our activity today will be a series of targeted visits by PCSOs to some areas where we feel elderly people may be particularly at risk, advising them and reassuring them about the steps they can take to protect themselves from both rogue traders and distraction burglars, and where they can find further information and support.”

The day of action forms part of a week of activities being led by the police service and trading standards.

It follows more than 13,000 complaints to Consumer Direct – the national trading standards organisation – last year about uninvited traders.

The national campaign is being run by Operation Liberal, the national police distraction burglary intelligence unit, and trading standards.

Operation Liberal highlights crime series and monitors intelligence on known criminals and organised criminal groups who travel extensively throughout Britain to commit these crimes.

Rogue traders often travel vast distances to commit offences, highlighting why having a national capability such as Operation Liberal is important.

Vulnerable

Peter Goodman, Deputy Chief Constable of East Midlands and ACPO spokesman for Operation Liberal, said: “Rogue traders prey on the most vulnerable in society, conning them out of vast sums of money, which in many cases is their life savings, for unnecessary and overpriced work.

“When someone falls foul of a rogue trading scam, research shows it has a seriously detrimental effect on a victim’s health and their confidence.

“Operation Rogue Trader aims to catch offenders and disrupt their activity as well as highlighting the dangers of rogue trading and doorstep crime.

“As you can imagine those involved in one form of illegal activity do not tend to be law-abiding citizens in other aspects of their life.

“By involving a range of different agencies, we can seriously disrupt their offending patterns through a range of tactics.”

It is not illegal for traders to sell at the door and legitimate callers will not mind if you shut and lock the door while you verify that they are genuine.

Rogue traders often offer gardening work or maintenance services at attractive rates but the quality of work is substandard, unnecessary or overpriced.

They often use persuasive sales techniques to encourage people into making hasty decisions.

Devastating

The Trading Standards Institute’s chief executive Ron Gainsford said: “Tackling rogue traders is a big priority for trading standards.

“Unscrupulous rogues and distraction burglars can have a devastating impact on people’s lives and their activities are often linked to a vast network of crime.

“Partnership working is an integral part of tackling the scourge of rogue traders – work that is carried out relentlessly by numerous agencies throughout the year.

“Initiatives like the Rogue Trader Day are an important opportunity to raise awareness and to empower consumers to say no to cold callers.”

People can report rogue traders or uninvited doorstep callers to Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.

Anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of any distraction burglar or rogue trader should contact Sussex Police on 0845 6070999 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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