Police appeal following distraction burglary in Harpenden

A HEARTLESS thief conned his way into an elderly woman’s home and stole her purse at the weekend.

The distraction burglary happened in the north part of the town on Sunday between 3.45pm and 4pm and police are appealing for information and witnesses to come forward.

The culprit, who is described as white, of a slim build with short spiky brown hair and around 5ft 8ins tall, called at her house and claimed that he was there to remove the neighbour’s hedge and replace it with a fence.

She walked him through her house, leaving the front door open, and 10 minutes after he left she discovered that her purse had been stolen and the upstairs of her property had been searched.

The culprit was wearing a white t-shirt with jeans and there is thought to be a second man involved who entered the house while the door was open and took the purse.

Detective constable Rachael Gallagher is the investigating officer and said: “This is a callous and targeted incident on an elderly lady, playing on her trusting nature.

“I would urge anyone who has any information about the crime, saw a man acting suspiciously in the area at the time or recognises the description of the offender to please come forward and help our investigation.”

Most Read

Anyone with information should contact Dc Gallagher on 0845 33 00 222 or, alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Call 999 if you suspect a crime is in progress.

For information on protecting yourselves or elderly relatives against distraction burglaries, visit www.hertsad.co.uk.

Herts Police have issued the following advice on how to avoid distraction burglaries:

1. If you aren’t expecting anyone and don’t recognise them, don’t allow them into your home. Bogus callers can be very convincing and will often pretend to represent a utility company, but a genuine caller won’t mind returning when you have someone you trust with you.

2. If you are expecting a caller only open your door when you are happy that you know the person. If you can’t see who is calling use your door chain and ask for identification or a pre-arranged password before letting them in.

3. Never keep large amounts of cash at home and instead deposit it in a bank account and ensure any valuable jewellery is safely and discretely locked away.

4. The most frequently used excuse is for a bogus caller to say they are from the ‘water board’ but Three Valleys Water, the providers for the whole of Herts, say that it is very unlikely that their staff would ever need to cold call. So if anyone knocks on your door claiming to be from the water board, be alert.

Advice for carers and neighbours:

1. If your family has a spare car that isn’t in use, you could park it in your elderly neighbour’s driveway during the daytime so that it looks as if they have company of a younger person in the house. Do some ‘window-dressing’ so that the net curtains are clean and tidy and make sure they close their main curtains after dark and are not visible to passing strangers. Help them to keep their garden tidy.

2. If you care for an elderly person or relative it may be wise to arrange to be with them when they have an appointment. You can help check their credentials and keep an eye on them when they are inside the home but it may also help the person you care for to be less likely to answer the door to a stranger when you are not around.

3. Help the police gather intelligence by giving them descriptions of suspects and the registration numbers and details of any vehicles, so that they can get bogus callers to court and hopefully secure convictions.

4. If a friend or relative lives in an area where there are a large number of elderly people, contact their local Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) who could approach Trading Standards with a view to setting up a ‘No cold calling’ zone. Visit www.herts.police.uk for more information.