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Campaign warns public of distraction burglars

Crime fighting leaflet launched

As a gang of prolific distraction burglars prepare to serve long prison sentences, Operation Liberal and the Energy Retail Association (ERA) are launching a new leaflet to warn residents about the tricks and tactics used by distraction burglars.

The new leaflet, which will help prevent people from becoming victims of crime, has been sponsored by the Energy Sure Code, which ensures that energy company staff comply with a strict code of practice.

The three men pleaded guilty to posing as police officers or pretending to be workmen from utility companies at Newcastle Crown Court. Miles Connors, 39, Patrick Connors, 18, and James Hanrahan, 39, all from Barra Hall Circus, in Hayes, Middlesex and will be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday 25 February 2011. Miles Connors and Patrick Connors admitted charges of conspiracy to burgle, while James Hanrahan pleaded guilty to burglary.

They preyed on the elderly aged in their seventies to nineties across the UK in Derbyshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire, Thames Valley, West Midlands, North and West Yorkshire, Wiltshire and London.

The series of offences were identified and linked by Operation Liberal, who was working with the Metropolitan Police during the initial investigation. North Yorkshire took on the role of prosecuting force and primacy for the investigation while Operation Liberal provided ongoing intelligence and resources. In total, the case impacted on 11 police forces.

DS Mark Seage from Operation Liberal says of the investigation:

“This was a serious organised crime group who were operating across the country targeting the elderly and vulnerable. Their successful prosecution sends out a strong and clear message to anyone contemplating this type of criminality that they face a thorough, no stone left unturned investigation.

“This case was a great example of forces working together. Operation Liberal identified the crime series and were supported by the Metropolitan Police during the initial investigation, which North Yorkshire Police subsequently took primacy for. I would also like to acknowledge the support of every individual force involved.”

All police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland co-ordinate the investigation of distraction burglaries through Operation Liberal, which analyses intelligence, supports investigations, provides crime prevention advice and maintains a database of crimes, offenders, vehicles, forensic information and images.

Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman, who is responsible for collaboration in the East Midlands and the Association of Chief Police Officers Lead for Operation Liberal comments:

“Distraction burglars and rogue traders cause their victims terrible anguish, which often leaves their faith in humanity shattered. While this type of crime isn’t common, we want to reduce the number of potential victims by making sure the public are empowered with the latest advice and information.”

James Brokenshire, Minister for Crime Prevention, says:

“Preying on older and vulnerable members of our community in this way is appalling. This new leaflet will help to raise awareness of distraction burglary, prevent more people from becoming victims and ensure the perpetrators of these despicable crimes are brought to justice. I applaud the police, industry and other partners for working together to tackle this issue.”

It is hoped the leaflet will raise awareness and help prevent future victims. 250,000 copies of the leaflet have been sent to police forces and Neighbourhood Watches to be distributed at events and community hubs such as Post Offices, doctors’ surgeries, hospitals, places of worship and community centres. The leaflet succeeds one produced last year with updated information. The sponsorship from the ERA has meant the leaflet has been reprinted on a larger scale to reach a wider audience.

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