Suffolk Police take rogue traders to task during week of action

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Suffolk Constabulary and Suffolk Trading Standards office 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, from Monday 28 September to Friday 02 October 2015 co-ordinated by Operation Liberal, the national intelligence unit for organised travelling criminality, and supported by the National Police Chiefs Council.

It began as a crime prevention initiative in 2006 with forces from the East and West Midlands and the local trading standards services carrying out a one day operation under Operation Liberal. In 2007 Operation Liberal became a national operation and consequently Operation Rogue Trader was supported by all forces.

Rogue trading for property repairs and maintenance relates to incidents where consumers have been ‘cold called’. It is the practice of deliberately overcharging for unsatisfactory goods and/or services. This includes charging of unnecessary work, damaging property deliberately in order to obtain money, leaving work unfinished and intimidating behaviour in order to extort money. 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.

Suffolk Police took part in the National Enforcement Day scheduled on Wednesday 30 September with officers from Suffolk Roads Policing and Firearms Operations Unit together with the Scorpion Team. They proactively targeted criminals by patrolling the A14 to and surrounding Bury roads, using the Rougham Lorry Park in Bury St Edmunds as a base.

During this, 42 vehicles were stopped and escorted to the base where partner agencies such as DVSA, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) fuel testing and hidden economy team together with Suffolk Trading Standards performed additional checks and examinations.

Of those stopped 13 drivers were issued with immediate prohibitions, 7 with delayed prohibitions and 54 advisory notices were given. 11 Traffic Offence Reports (TORS) were issued; 6 for MOTs; two for insurance; one for seatbelts; and two for mobile phone usage. One vehicle was also seized for no insurance, one vehicle found with no tax and one tachograph warning was given. Suffolk Trading Standards collated 17 intel reports and HMRC fuel tested 38 vehicles.

Across the UK, police forces, trading standards officials and partner agencies have undertaken a wide range of work to identify and arrest rogue traders as part of the week campaign, to disrupt the activity of rogue trading and to make communities aware of this type of crime.

Evidence strongly suggests that there are links between those who commit distraction burglary and those who are involved in rogue trading. Those who commit these offences often cross county borders which highlights the importance of a national operation such as Operation Liberal, which is funded jointly by all police forces in England, Wales and Scotland.

Suffolk Police also took part in the National Reassurance Day scheduled on Thursday 1 October, where crime reduction advice was issued through Neighbourhood Watch Schemes and Police Connect.

Alan Osborne, Community Safety Manager for Suffolk Constabulary said: “Although Suffolk Constabulary works closely with partners such as Suffolk Trading Standards throughout the year to tackle these sorts of crimes, we are pleased to be supporting this national week-long operation locally.

“Rogue traders not only rob a person of their money but have significant effects on someone’s confidence and quality of life. We encourage people in Suffolk to spread the message, especially to elderly, lone occupants or vulnerable people; remember…Not Sure? Don’t Open the Door!”

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “The actions of these despicable traders can have a devastating effect on their victims and in so many cases this can leave a long term impact on the confidence of these vulnerable people.

“I am very pleased to see the Constabulary working with our local Trading Standards team and partners from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and HM Revenue & Customs to focus not just on enforcement but also on highlighting the traps that some people fall into when they employ tradesmen. I really hope this prevents others becoming victims of these unsavoury characters in the future.”

Councillor Sarah Stamp, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Communities said: “The impact of rogue traders’ actions in particular can far outweigh any financial loss to the victim, with dramatic effects on quality of life and confidence. These rogue traders are criminals who take advantage of householders by using high-pressure sales techniques. Their work is often expensive, sub-standard and not required at all.

“This collaborative approach solves more crimes and sends a message to the criminals who commit this type of crime that they will face a thorough, co-ordinated investigation and as a result they can expect significant sentences.”

Peter Goodman, Deputy Chief Constable East Midlands and the National Policing Lead for Operation Liberal, said: “Distraction crimes and scams conning people of their life savings for unnecessary and overpriced work have a detrimental effect on the victim’s health and their confidence.

“We will continue to carry out operations like this. Please remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity or concerns about an individual offering to carry out work to the relevant agency.”

Remember the following advice:

• The key crime prevention message is ‘Not Sure? Don’t Open the Door!’

• Check the identity of the doorstep caller by telephoning the company they are purporting to be from. Use the telephone numbers listed in your local directory or provided independently by your service provider.

• Check whether traders are members of the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme or the Government Trust Mark scheme.

• Discuss any work you feel needs carrying out on your property with a relative or friend who can help you find a reputable trader.

• Don’t agree to any work or sign anything on the spot. Do not be pressured into having any work carried out.

• Never pay cash up front and never go to the bank or cash point with a trader.

• If you suspect a rogue trader is at your door then call 999.

Anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of any doorstep offender or rogue trader should ring their Suffolk Police on 101 or call Crimestoppers, the national charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.