Clamping down on rogue traders
Police forces and trading standards teams across the UK have been taking action to target rogue traders as part of a week-long national enforcement and awareness initiative.
Operation Rogue Trader is an annual week of activity co-ordinated by Operation Liberal, the national distraction burglary intelligence unit, the Trading Standards Institute and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
Rogue traders are individuals or groups of people who cold-call householders, often targeting vulnerable residents, claiming to be a bona fide business and purporting to offer services, most commonly buildings maintenance and repair.
The offenders charge excessive fees for the work, yet the work that is carried out is either sub-standard or not carried out at all.
Across the UK, almost 2,000 officers and staff from police forces, trading standards teams and partner agencies have undertaken a wide range of work to identify and arrest rogue traders, to disrupt the activity of rogue trading and to make communities aware of this type of crime.
That includes everything from carrying out vehicle checks and inspecting local employers to recovering property and delivering crime prevention messages.
By noon on Thursday, more than 100 arrests for a range of offences had been confirmed across the country in operations related to Operation Rogue Trader.
In one reported case in North West England, direct intervention by trading standards officials saved one potential victim from being charged more than £4,500 for paving work.
Detective Inspector David Ball, of Operation Liberal, said: “Thanks to the effective partnership between police forces, trading standards teams and other key agencies, Operation Rogue Trader has become a well-established annual campaign focusing on a pattern of offending which deliberately targets the most vulnerable members of our communities, and most often the elderly.
“Offenders can be both plausible and intimidating in order to convince their victims to pay prices which are often well above what should normally be charged and certainly does not reflect the work that is carried out, if it is carried out at all. Rogue traders can often travel considerable distances and between force areas to carry out their crimes.
“We need to get crime prevention messages about rogue trading not just to householders, but to whole communities as well as to relatives and friends, particularly of elderly residents. The golden rule is that if you are not sure who is at the door, don’t open it. If you have any suspicions at all about cold-callers or traders operating in your community, please call your police force on 101.”
Steve Playle, Trading Standards Institute Lead Officer for Doorstep Crime, said : "Operation Rogue Trader is a fantastic initiative that brings together trading standards officers and police officers in order to tackle the menace of criminals who cause enormous emotional distress and massive financial detriment to so many householders across the country.
“The activities of cold calling home maintenance rogues are often linked to the activities of distraction burglars and all the evidence shows that it is the elderly and vulnerable who are deliberately targeted by this crime. The simple message from trading standards is to always say 'no' to any traders offering to carry out work who unexpectedly turn up on your doorstep."
* Calls to 101 cost 15p for the entire call from both mobile ‘phones and land lines
** Please note some mobile ‘phone service providers may charge for this call.
All forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are members of Operation Liberal. Operation Liberal supports national investigations into distraction burglaries and doorstep crime, and associated travelling criminality (please note that this should not be confused with the traveller community).
The unit identifies and analyse crime series and monitors intelligence on criminals and organised crime groups who travel throughout the UK to commit these crime types.
This collaborative approach solves more crimes and sends a message to the criminals who commit this type of crime that they will face a nationally co-ordinated investigation and as a result they can expect significant sentences.
Operation Liberal works with many partner agencies including Water UK, Energy UK, Trading Standards, Crime stoppers and the Home Office.
Victims of distraction burglary and rogue trading tend to be elderly and vulnerable and can suffer terribly both emotionally and physically after an offence.
For further information, telephone Rob James, communications officer, on 0115 9670999, ext 800 3050 or 07595 011607.
DATE: 10 April 2014