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ISSUES AND OBSERVATIONS (July 2014)

Robberies and burglaries

The criminal fraternity have been relatively idle since the last POWG report. Reported crimes (there will have been many more, but most significant crimes do get reported) have included damage to a garage door in Milton Road and a smashed window at Jewsons on Grove Road in May. There was a spate of overnight (18-19 June) burglaries in Ox Lane (two), Coldharbour Lane and on the Lower Luton Road in Wheathampstead; house and car keys, as well as PCs and laptops, were taken.

Among the car crimes reported was an unusual incident that took place in Aldwickbury Crescent on the night of 11-12 May: an entire centre console was taken from a locked BMW. During 11-12 May two steering wheels and SatNavs were taken from locked vehicles on Wood End Road. Scratches were made on two cars at Hadleigh Court and on two more cars on Welbeck Rise.

Some hints if you want to avoid becoming a victim of vehicle crime:

Should you live near a communications mast, do keep an eye out for any suspicious activity in its vicinity. High value materials are being stolen from these masts (about twenty incidents in Hertfordshire in the last three months). As usual, 999 if a crime is in progress, 101 with non-urgent information.

Finally, opportunistic thieves continue to snatch unguarded purses in supermarkets; and it’s the elderly and vulnerable who suffer. The police say give them descriptions of the thieves; your Convener thinks it might be more practical to have a quick word with any vulnerable person who is the owner of an ‘at risk’ purse in a supermarket pointing out the tempting offer (the purse, not the BOGOF).

Police Apprehensions

On 6 May the Police arrested a male in Cowper Road on suspicion of a dwelling burglary after a member of the public reported a suspicious male at her door. Also on 6 May a male was detained and searched, following a call from the public, at Harpenden railway station. He gave a false name, was in possession of a screwdriver and stolen property, and was wanted by police for four other offences. Two more males were arrested by the Police on 7 May (a busy period!) on suspicion of a dwelling burglary after a member of the public saw them jumping over fences in their garden (the suspects, not the Police...) in Delcroft Way around 10am.

Talking of dwelling burglaries, the number of such burglaries is not directly proportional to the number of domestic alarm systems that are set off – security companies say that at this time of year many are set off by moths and spiders. You’ve probably noticed this for yourselves.

Finally, a man from Harpenden (Bloomfield Road – who would have thought any rogues lived there?!) pleaded guilty to two distraction burglaries and four fraud offences. He was jailed for three years and four months. The offences did not take place in Harpenden.


Crime prevention

The financial services industry continues to warn us against ‘Boiler Room Scams’. ‘Boiler Rooms’, often based overseas in rented offices with ranks of telephones, use high pressure selling techniques to pressurise investors into purchasing shares in companies. According to one company (famous for allowing you to exchange goods you’ve previously purchased from them) they are often based overseas in ‘countries like Spain, Switzerland or the USA’. Is there another country like the USA? Can’t think of one. Or Switzerland – Austria...a bit like it? Or Spain? Mexico, perhaps – they have bullfighting. Anyway, the shares are usually worthless or high risk – and you’ll be overcharged for them. But even experienced investors fall for these scams (they have professional websites and friendly sales people) and the average amount each punter looses is around £20,000. Although friendly, the sales staff will hound people for months in the hope of a sale. The advice is to put the phone down, don’t get drawn into a conversation and don’t bother about being polite. Then call the Financial Conduct Authority’s Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.  Since there are quite a few investors in Harpenden with £20,000 or so to invest it’s fair to assume that people living here will be targeted from time to time.

Beware of this PayPal scam. You receive an email from PayPal saying that you’re owed £27. It looks like any other PayPal email, but it’s a phishing email. Don’t even think about opening it – delete it.

On a negative note, SmartWater (for marking property) can no longer be obtained through NHW Ward Coordinators; but kits can be obtained directly from the company for £25. Contact them via www.smartwater.tv.affinity or call 0870 242 8899 if interested.

Home safety

While on the subject of leaflets, your Coordinator was sent by email a copy of a leaflet entitled ‘Hertfordshire Home Safety Service’. This leaflet does not appear to be easily available online, and the service is an ‘umbrella organisation’ which is not so easy to pin down. The best advice is probably to say that if you need help in the areas of Home Security, Fire Safety Checks and Falls Prevention, contact: HHSS@Medequip-uk.com.

Police news

Neighbourhead Inspector Neil Morehen has recently been appointed to manage various local areas, including Harpenden. He lives in St Albans and has been with Hertfordshire Constabulary since 1993.

Mais non!

And finally.... le cuffing! It seems appropriate, given our current obsession with the Tour de France, to look across La Manche and see how crime is being handled over there. Merde! (can we say that?). In an attempt to improve the image of Paris it has been revealed that the police have wiped thousands of crimes off the record or falsified their details (16,000 in 2011, 13,000 in 2012). Burglaries were frequently registered as acts of vandalism (here, reporting an attempted burglary as damage to a door or window or whatever is known as ‘cuffing’). The falsification has reduced the burglary figures for Paris by about 10 per cent.