Surrey Police is warning elderly residents to be on their guard as officers investigate a series of distraction burglaries and thefts in which the offenders claim to be police officers.
Detectives are looking at around 30 incidents across the county where elderly people, often living alone, have been approached by offenders posing as police officers or UK Border officials to gain entry into homes.
Victims are approached by between one and three men in dark clothing either at their front door or discover they have entered their property through an insecure door. When confronted, the men often claim they are police officers investigating a crime and show false identification before stealing items.
In some cases the offenders have forced their way inside a property whilst the occupier is in another room or asleep and when challenged have claimed to be police officers.
Over the last three months offences have been reported in Elmbridge, Guildford, Spelthorne, Epsom, and Mole Valley. Last Friday evening (March 16) a 90-year-old woman in Hersham was targeted by thieves posing as police officers who showed her a false silver badge before stealing two handbags and a significant amount of cash. During the incident they pulled the victim’s handbag away from her causing her to fall to the floor and injure herself. She was treated in hospital for injuries to her hip.
In another incident in Surrey Heath, two offenders approached the home of an elderly woman and claimed to be police officers who had caught a thief in her garden. They asked to come in under the guise of needing to search the home for evidence but on this occasion nothing of value was taken.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Karen Hughes said: “To target the most vulnerable members of our community in this way is despicable and cowardly. We are doing everything possible to find those responsible and anyone with information which could assist should contact police or call Crimestoppers anonymously
“Detectives are working closely with local Safer Neighbourhood Teams to gather information, look at CCTV and any forensic opportunities. We are also working with neighbouring police forces to see if these offences are occurring over a wider area.”
This week Crimestoppers offered a £5,000 reward for information about the offence in Hersham which left a woman requiring hospital treatment.
Neighbourhood Superintendent Sharon Bush said: “Across the county Safer Neighbourhood Teams are working with their local communities and partner agencies, particularly those who support the elderly, to raise awareness of these crimes. We need people to stay vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to us.
“If you live next door to someone who is vulnerable or have elderly relatives living alone please remind them to keep their doors secure even when they are at home and take precautions when answering the door to strangers. If you are not expecting the caller keep your door locked and ask to see some identification - perhaps through a window or letterbox. If you decide to open the door, engage the chain and keep it engaged until you are completely sure the caller is genuine. Genuine police officers will not mind waiting outside whilst you phone the Surrey Police switchboard on 101 to confirm their identity.
“If you do find intruders in your home, your personal safety is the priority. Stay calm and raise the alarm as soon as possible by calling the police.”