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Scams and cybercrime

Giving your location online can be dangerous

If you innocently use apps involving geo-tagged data (Location Services), as young people in particular do, others can locate where you were at the time. They may then misuse this information. Police advice is to think about the information you’re sharing and to understand the risks involved. It may be wise not to use geotagging if data concerning your home, or someone else’s residence, are involved. Learn how to disable the feature – and only opt to use it when you need to.

Phone scam involving elderly victims and iTunes vouchers

Fraudsters claiming to be from HMRC are telling victims that they owe large sums of money and that they will be arrested unless they settle the debt immediately. They tell their victims to settle the debt by purchasing iTunes vouchers or gift cards (which can easily be redeemed) from a local retailer. Just another way of exploiting the vulnerability of our older residents.

Burglaries, robberies, thefts and break-ins

Card theft

Purses are again being taken from supermarket customers – sometimes in the supermarket, sometimes by distraction techniques after customers have left the shop. It’s the credit and debit cards they’re after: they will have obtained the PINs by watching people at the checkout ( experienced criminals can tell what numbers you’re keying in just by watching your hand movements from a distance). Guard purses at all times, especially when being spoken to by a stranger.

Thefts from vehicles

These mainly occur in the evenings or overnight. There have recently been thefts from vehicles parked in Vale Close, Otterton Close, Spenser Road, Townsend Lane, Crabtree Lane, Lyndhurst Avenue, Shakespeare Road, Martins Close and in the Bowers Way car parks. The opportunistic thieves will take anything (even sweets) but are particularly fond of digital gadgets such as iPods and SatNavs. Two such crimes involved the theft of wing-mirror covers from Minis. There is evidence that those responsible for these crimes are arriving and departing on bicycles. Keep vehicles locked at all times – and report anything suspicious.

Lock bumping

This topic is included here to raise awareness: it is not a particular problem in our area.

Lock bumping is a lock picking technique. Pin tumbler locks can be opened using rapping keys (first patented in 1928!), bump keys or 999 keys. Bump keys must correspond to the target lock. Recent advances in bump key design mean that lock bumping, although a noisy technique, has become a recent trend in burglaries. A set of ten keys will open 90% of common locks. Seventy-three percent of UK burglaries are now carried out by entering via the front door. You can learn how it works on YouTube: 3D printers are helping criminals to make keys more easily.

For those who are concerned, specific countermeasures are available; but despite the high number of entries gained through front doors very few burglars use these techniques. This, of course, doesn’t deter manufacturers of advanced locks from trying to worry you about the problem in order to persuade you to buy their products.

Fly-tipping

Everyone hates this crime, the punishments for which are now severe (up to £50,000 even in a Magistrates’ Court).

If you see it happening: observe it from a distance and call 999

If you come across a fly-tip: visit www.hertsdirect.org/flytip

Don’t interfere with the tip. Report when and where you saw it, if it’s blocking a right-of-way, what it consists of and whether there are any chemicals or liquid waste. If you see people or vehicles note details of the vehicle, the number of people involved and their descriptions.

Trading standards

New joint Trusted Traders scheme in Hertfordshire

On 13 May Hertfordshire Trading Standards (Herts County Council) and Which? Trusted Traders entered into a new partnership. The aim of the partnership is to make it easier for Hertfordshire’s residents to find traders they can trust.

The scheme is based on background checks (for which businesses must apply) and references from previous customers. Businesses must agree to abide by the scheme’s code of conduct. Approved businesses are monitored and reassessed every year. An independent Alternative Dispute Resolution service is available to customers.

There is a new logo that endorsed traders will be using. Profiles of approved traders can be found at www.whichtrustedtraders.co.uk

Police and NHW news

Police and Crime Commissioner re-elected

In early May David Lloyd (Conservative) was re-elected to serve as Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner for another four years. His offices are in the Police Station in Vaughan Road, Harpenden. The turnout for the election was 29% compared with 14.5% at the last election (2012).

New Chief Inspector appointed for St Albans

A new Chief Inspector has been appointed for St Albans: he is CI Shane O’Neill. He succeeds Ken Townsend. He and his family have had strong links with St Albans ever since his parents moved here from Ireland in 1953.

Volunteers needed for Custody Visitor Scheme and other activities

The work of Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is supported by an Independent Custody Visiting Scheme. This is required under the Police Reform Act (2002).  Volunteers help to monitor conditions of detainees in police custody and of the custody suites at Hatfield and Stevenage. Volunteers make unannounced visits, in pairs, on any day and at any time of day twice a week.

Twenty-five volunteers are being sought; for anyone who may be interested details can be found on the PCC’s website (www.hertscommissioner.org).

Whilst on the subject of volunteering for the police, the PCC’s website also gives details of Stop and Search Scrutiny Panels, Independent Dog Welfare Volunteers and Community DriveSafe Volunteering. Visit the site if interested.

Harpenden crimes reported on TV’s ‘Crimewatch Roadshow’

The live ‘Crimewatch Roadshow’ that was screened on BBC1 at 9.15am on Thursday 9 June featured unsolved crime in Harpenden. By what one must assume was an extraordinary coincidence the digital TV signal from the Sandy Heath transmitter broke up just as the Harpenden report was going out!

And finally....

Since Friday 13 May there has been a spate of thefts of Portaloos from residential addresses undergoing building works throughout the District (including Browning Road in Harpenden). Police have nothing to go on.

As Eric Midwinter would have been the first to point out, the old ones are the best....



Alan Jackson

Convener

Community Safety Working Group



ISSUES AND OBSERVATIONS (July 2016)