THE battle against rogue traders saw Police stop over 100 vehicles, visit over 700 households and gather lots of intelligence to prevent and disrupt criminals from ripping off local residents.
Staffordshire Police have been working in partnership this week with Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards as part of a national, week-long campaign to catch rogue traders, gather intelligence to inform future prosecutions and raise awareness with the public about the signs to look out for.
Rogue trading is a UK-wide problem and evidence suggests that a number of distraction burglars and other criminals network with each other and associate with rogue traders to mislead and rip off vulnerable members of society. A national campaign has therefore been running for the past few years, under the name Operation Liberal, with 300 arrests, £3m worth of property recovered and over 5,000 vehicles inspected nationwide in 2016.
To combat this in Staffordshire, officers have been out and about with Trading Standards officers gathering and responding to intelligence and engaging with businesses and members of the public.
In just three days there has been some impressive progress, with the teams stopping 123 vehicles, checking 39 companies for signs of rogue trader activity, visiting 737 households to gather intelligence and provide advice, and distributing 4,990 crime prevention leaflets to members of the public.
Positive examples from the week so far include a group of men trying to charge £3,000 to a company near Stafford for a service they did not intend to complete. Officers intervened and prevented the transaction going ahead, saving the company money and gathering intelligence on the rogue traders.
Investigators in Tamworth had also observed a rogue trader departing from an address, which they then subsequently took a statement from the homeowner and details of the suspect to follow up with an investigation.
Chief Inspector Jason Nadin, commander of the Tamworth local policing team and force lead for the Rogue Trader campaign, said: “The real emphasis of the rogue trader campaign is to raise awareness and educate the public about the threat so that they are less likely to become victims.
“Whilst it isn’t all blue lights and chases, the intelligence gathered to help us stop the parasites that target the most vulnerable is invaluable. It’s vitally important that we reduce the rewards the offenders can make by reducing the number of victims they can target.”
Wednesday saw a concentrated effort in our day of action, where every local policing team had officers out in locations popular with rogue traders to stop passing vehicles and engage with members of the public to pass on crime prevention advice.
In addition each local policing team had a roaming vehicle with police and trading standards officers responding to specific intelligence. The intelligence has been gathered in the weeks leading up to the operation and officers on Monday and Tuesday were out identifying addresses and locations for the Wednesday roaming patrols to respond to.
Across the county Police have also helped local residents set up 26 no cold-calling zones and 7 no rogue trading areas.
Staffordshire County Council’s communities leader Gill Heath said: “The national Rogue Trader Week demonstrates how important it is for organisations to coordinate and work closely together to tackle this type of criminal activity. By using our resources effectively, we have a greater impact.
“Furthermore we know criminals operate across borders and so intelligence and information sharing is vital. We have again seen a successful week and in addition to potentially preventing criminal activity, we have been able to offer advice and reassurance so that people can protect themselves all year round. We will continue to work with a range of organisations to ensure Staffordshire people are safe and feel safe.”
For advice on how to spot a rogue trader and what you can do about it, go to our dedicated advice page at www.staffordshire.police.uk/roguetraders