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Neighbourhood Watch News Archive
Neighbourhood Watch News - July 2017
The Holiday Season is Nigh! Beware the Burglars
There have been a number of burglaries reported of late in Flackwell Heath, which highlights the need to ensure that your property is secure: not just in terms of buildings, outbuildings and vehicles, but also with regard to the identification of your valuables. It is a known fact that only a very small proportion of stolen goods recovered by the police are ever reunited with the rightful owner. This is because it is often impossible to identify the owner, and the goods end up in police auctions.
There are several ways in which you can make your valuable property traceable back to you. Probably the most widely used is the UV Pen, which is a very basic form of property marking, allowing the police to reveal your Post Code and House Number by illuminating the item with ultra-violet light. However, this type of marking does have its limitations depending upon the material being marked and how much the markings are exposed to daily sunlight, which gradually reduces the durability of the marking. A more sophisticated method uses liquids with a unique chemical composition and containing numerous ‘microdots’, which can be referred to a database and linked back to you. This is often called DNA marking and is available from various suppliers – SmartWater, SelectaDNA and CrimeStoppers to name but three.
For heavy duty items like bicycles, lawn mowers, power tools, etc. a marking and protective lacquer system from CRE-mark is available. This is a visible marking system – a deterrent in itself – which is virtually impossible to remove without serious damage to the item. This makes selling of such damaged items less attractive. For bicycles in particular, Bike Register offers a durable label marking system, linked to a database accessible to the police.
Finally, the ‘Immobilise’ UK National Property Register allows you to register all your items of value on a national database which is also accessible to the police and lets them trace recovered stolen goods back to the rightful owner. There is also a database called CheckMEND which allows the second-hand trade and the public to see - for a small fee - whether items offered for sale, especially mobile phones and other electronic devices, have a known history
Neighbourhood Watch News - June 2017
Table Top Event, Christ Church
Another successful event was held in early May, with a number of residents coming to chat to us about ‘cons and scams’, which continues to be a ‘hot topic’! Popular items that were purchased were our multi-function personal alarm which doubles up as a torch, and the very useful Card Defender for protecting contactless Credit and Debit cards. Our next attendance will be during the morning of September 15th – make a note in your diary now!
Cyber Security and Cybercrime
As I write this, the major news item being reported is a Cyber-attack which has affected many organisations around the world, including our own NHS. Apparently, the culprit is a piece of ‘ransomware’ called ‘Wanna Decryptor’ which is affecting computers running the Windows operating system, going back as far as Windows XP. This ransomware is spread via a ‘Trojan’ which exploits a security loophole in the Windows operating system on many computers. To protect ourselves from this sort of infection, we should all:
- Ensure our Windows operating system is kept up-to-date by installing all the security and other updates issued by Microsoft. This can usually be set to ‘automatic’
- Ensure that the Firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware software on our computers is not only ‘Active’ but is regularly updated.
- If there are critical/important files (documents, photos, etc) on our computer, regularly carry out a ‘back-up’ operation, preferably to an external device. If our computer becomes infected and has to be re-formatted, at least these valuable items will not have been lost.
- Never ‘click’ on a link in any e-mail that looks a bit unusual or is unexpected. This is the classic way in which these ‘Trojans’ are spread. Once the ‘Trojan’ is on your machine, it can be passed on to others with whom you communicate.
- Avoid ‘clicking’ on links that appear on websites you may be legitimately visiting, unless you are sure that it is safe. Hovering the mouse cursor over a link (often in blue, underlined text’) will usually reveal the destination somewhere on your display screen.
If we all ensure that our computers are well-protected against Cyber Attack by following these basic ‘rules’, then we will also be doing the things that will help protect us from Cyber Crime.
Support Charity NOT Crime
Wycombe District Council – and many other councils around London – are supporting this Home Office initiative. The objective is to ensure that any donations of cash or goods that we give, go to the appropriate charity and not into the hands of unscrupulous criminals. By following some simple steps we can all help:
- when approached by a collector, check whether they have proper ID and that any collection tin is sealed.
- check the charity's name and registration on the Charity Commission's website – www.charitycommission.gov.uk
- look for the Fund Raising Standards Board (FRSB) tick logo indicating that the charity is signed up to fundraising regulation.
- if in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser will always be happy to answer questions and explain the work of the charity.
Neighbourhood Watch News - May 2017
Summer is here – or is it?
We had some really good weather at the beginning of April (as I write this!), and the lawn mowers and BBQ’s were dragged from their winter storage, dusted off and the spiders chased away, to make the most of it. The evenings are getting lighter even though the temperature has been a bit unpredictable of late. Let’s hope that May is a tad more reliable and warmer.
Table Top Event, Christ Church - Tuesday, May 9th, between 10 am and 12 noon
There will be a table-top display of security and safety information and products, at Christ Church during the Coffee Stop and other activities on May 9th. If you have ANY concerns about the safety and security of either yourselves or family members, do come along and have a chat with us. Whilst we may not be able to answer every question, we will do our best to point you in the right direction.
Keep your property safe and secure
Although government statistics suggest that there has been a decline in theft in general, thought to be due to the growth of ‘cons and scams’, we must not become complacent, and must continue to look after our homes and property. At the risk of repeating myself, ensure that your property looks ‘lived in’ at all times, especially when you are away on that well-earned holiday. Security marking of garden machinery, expensive furniture and even garden ornaments is worth considering. Should you be unlucky and have things stolen from your garden, the police will have a fighting chance of re-uniting you with your valuables if they can be traced back to you.
Current crime picture
Lighter evenings encourage folk to stay out later into the evening, and there have been reports of some antisocial behaviour in our village, often involving youths from neighbouring areas. Should you witness any such undesirable activity, don’t be afraid to report it on the Police 101 number, as it is only with our help that the police will be made aware of a problem, and then perhaps they can do something to prevent it.
Those of you who are registered to receive Thames Valley Alerts, will have been intrigued by the ‘Lawful Citizen’ scam that was reported during April on behalf of Action Fraud. For the benefit of readers who do not receive TVAlerts, the scam e-mail arrived addressed to the recipient by name and carried details of their home address. The attached document used the recipients name as a title, and there was a file ‘password’. The attachment is believed to contain the Banking Trojan Ursniff/Gozi, hidden within an image in the document. The Ursniff Banking Trojan attempts to obtain sensitive data from victims, such as banking credentials and passwords. The data is subsequently used by criminals for monetary gain. Should you ever receive such an e-mail, DELETE it at once and advise Action Fraud.
We continue to see the receipt of phishing e-mails appearing to be from organisations such as PayPal, Amazon, DVLA, ASDA, to name but four! Vishing (telephone phishing) calls claiming to be from Microsoft, BT, TalkTalk, etc. continue to pester many residents, although the introduction of call blocking services or equipment by some providers is helping to reduce their impact.
Neighbourhood Watch News - April 2017
Summer Time is here
The clocks went FORWARD by 1 hour on March 26th, marking the start of British Summer Time (BST). Many modern clocks and timers are ‘wireless’, obtaining their time signals from one of the various standard radio clocks, and such devices will automatically accommodate the change to BST. However, the more traditional mechanical and digital timers will need to be reset manually, and also have their ON/OFF periods adjusted to take account of the lengthening days. Have you adjusted yours?
Table Top Event, Christ Church
A successful table top display of safety and crime prevention information was held on Friday, February 24th at Christ Church. There was a steady flow of enquirers and a lot of interest shown in the information and products available. The next event will be on Tuesday, May 9th between 10am and Noon. Make a note in your diary!
The trend away from ‘traditional’ acquisitive crime towards the more sophisticated fraud-related crime seems to be continuing, whether this is by deception mail through the post or network-related crime.
In March, a resident received a very authentic-looking letter in the post claiming to be from the ‘People’s Postcode Lottery’. The letter carried several elements that were ‘genuine’ – such as the address of a well-known betting company and an internationally recognised ‘quality’ logo - which all added to the apparently genuine nature of the missive. The letter claimed that the recipient’s name had been chosen at random from the UK Electoral Roll, and that he had ‘won’ a significant sum of money, no doubt subject to payment of a ‘claim registration fee’! Fortunately, our resident recognised the letter as being fraudulent and was not taken in by the lure of a fortune. Remember the old Shakespearian line – ‘All that glisters is not gold’.
Another frequent scam has been the telephone call from BT or Microsoft or some other well-known network provider, claiming that ‘there is a problem with your router’ or some other such techie jargon, and that ‘you will be losing your internet connection very shortly unless……..’ The proffered solution is for you to give the caller access to your computer (assuming you have one in the first place) and they will ‘fix’ the problem for you. Well, should you fall for their story and give them online access to your PC, they will certainly ‘fix you’, as one resident found to his cost when an encrypted password was installed on the PC locking him out. If you receive such a call, the safest solution is to simply hang-up. If you have plenty of time, put the phone down leaving the call connected and go off and to some gardening, or engage the caller in some pointless and time-wasting conversation! Whatever you choose to do, NEVER let them near your computer.
Finally, there are reports of residents in the area receiving phone calls – described as ‘pre-recorded prank calls’ – targeting the young and elderly. The caller has frequently been described as ‘an angry Scottish man claiming that you are stealing his WiFi connection’! If the caller’s number can be identified, you can ask your phone provider to ‘block’ the number.
Neighbourhood Watch News - March 2017
CYBERCRIME – again!
The last few weeks have reinforced the general view that Cybercrime is rapidly replacing ‘traditional’ acquisitive crime, a view apparently shared by the criminal fraternity, as there is less chance of getting caught, and penalties are lower! Several Thames Valley Alerts have reported crimes that have used networks of one sort or another to commit fraud. I have personally received e-mails into mail accounts which have NO dealings with banks, credit card companies, Amazon, E-Bay, etc.
On two consecutive days I received e-mails claiming to be from TV Licensing – but from different e-mail addresses – telling me that I had a TV Licence refund due. Well this is vey strange, as being ‘old’ I don’t pay for a TV Licence, so how can there be a refund?
Another mail told me that I had been ‘awarded’ a $50 Amazon Gift Card. The message itself was very brief – in a green typeface – and all the text was hyperlinked to a strange address (revealed by ‘hovering the mouse cursor OVER the text – DO NOT CLICK ON IT – the address is displayed lower left on your screen.) – ttp://bit.do/daMVU” In particular, the invitation to ‘Unsubscribe Here’ would have taken me to the same address.
The safest thing that you can do should you receive mail messages of this sort is to DELETE them straight away. If the message appears to be from a known organisation, then you can ‘Forward’ the unwanted e-mail as an ‘attachment’ to the organisations anti-phishing department. You can easily find the mail address to use by a simple ‘Google’, eg. ‘report phishing to Barclays’. It is also recommended that you report ‘phishing’ to the police at Action Fraud – see below for details.
It is estimated that the ‘average’ internet user probably has about twenty (20) passwords used for the various banking, shopping, service, etc. web accounts. Many of these will be relatively simple passwords frequently using the same or similar characters. As a minimum, the password should contain UPPER and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. But how are we supposed to remember all these passwords and how secure are they? We are told that if we write them down then we lose any financial protection that may be on offer! There are now several ‘Password Manager’ apps. available, where ALL our passwords are stored in a secure ‘electronic vault’ protected by one very strong password, designed to defeat the ‘hackers’. Your passwords are then as ‘safe’ as the security of the Password Manager. However, this sounds a bit like ‘having all your eggs in one basket’, and there is a suggestion that some organisations consider this the same as writing down your passwords, which seems a bit draconian to me.
There is a very useful website at ‘cyberaware.gov.uk’ which offers advice about selecting strong passwords that will give the ‘hackers’ a headache. They recommend using three random words – but NEVER use words such as family, child’s, pet’s names, birthplace, DOB. But how do we remember these? There are two main methods – the loci method, where you visualise a familiar scene and place the three items that you need to remember at specific places within the scene, and the story method, when you create a simple story including the three words you need to remember. A third method is to simply type out the three consecutive words repetitively until they are imprinted in your memory. Then destroy any printout!
For further information on these topics or about Neighbourhood Watch, contact:
David Gresswell – Area Co-ordinator, Flackwell Heath
(Tel: 525019 e-mail: email@example.com)
Police General & Non-emergency number: 101
Public Safety Team (Anti-social behaviour): 01494 421087
Crimestoppers (Anonymous): 0800 555 111
Trading Standards (Consumer Direct): 0845 4 04 05 06
ACTION FRAUD: 0300 123 2040 (http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/)
NHS : 111
Neighbourhood Watch News - February 2017
HAPPY NEW YEAR
I hope that you all had a safe and enjoyable Christmas and I send my best wishes for 2017.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
Why not make it one of your New Year Resolutions to start a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in your road? If you are already in a scheme, how about giving your scheme a bit of a refresher? I am very happy to help in this direction. Have any new residents been invited to join your scheme? Is your street signage up to scratch? Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association (WDNHWA) has benefited from funding provided by the Co-op to purchase a supply of signs, so new street signs are readily available by contacting me.
Talk to anyone in an active Neighbourhood Watch scheme, and they will confirm the benefits – both practical and social – of belonging to a scheme. In addition, you can obtain favourable car and property insurance via A-Plan in High Wycombe who have agreed to be a sponsor of WDNHWA.
Visit the WDNHWA website for lots of useful information relevant to the Wycombe area::
Traditional acquisitive crime is rapidly being replaced by ‘cybercrime’ – crime that can either be facilitated by use of the internet or mobile phone networks, or which is dependent upon computer, phone and network technology. The use of ‘social media’ is also being more widely exploited to commit various forms of crime – deception, fraud and various types of exploitation.
Simple steps to stay safe online
It is thought that around 80% of cases of internet fraud could be avoided if people took some simple steps to protect themselves while online.
- Use a strong password to keep your details safe. This should contain upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
- Never give your personal banking details out online. Banks and companies will never ask for sensitive information via email or phone.
- Make sure you are using up-to-date internet security, including on your mobile phone.
- Ensure you have installed the latest operating system
- Edit your privacy settings on social media and make sure only your friends can see your updates and information.
Neighbourhood Watch News - December 2016
Well, this will be my last offering for 2016, so may I wish all readers a safe and happy Christmas. Let us all look forward to a successful 2017, whatever it may bring!
Christmas Safety and Security
Once again I would remind you to think about the safety and security of your property as we start the run-up towards Christmas. Don’t leave your Christmas shopping visible in your car when it is parked in a public place - lock your shopping in the boot where it cannot be seen. Likewise, think about the security of your home, especially now that the evenings are dark so much earlier. Presents around the Christmas Tree, visible from the road, are often a tempting target for the opportunist burglar. If you are planning to buy any expensive gifts, will they be adequately covered by your household contents insurance in the unfortunate event of a burglary? Post-Christmas, don’t forget to security-mark and register any new, expensive items of electronic gadgetry or the like. Use the FREE website at http://www.immobilise.com/
As I have noted previously, the ‘traditional’ acquisitive crimes of theft and burglary are on the decline, although robbery is still all too common. These crimes have been supplanted by the various forms of fraud, many of which are facilitated by the use of the Internet and Social Media. There is a very valuable campaign being run by the organisation – ‘takefive-stopfraud.org.uk’ Their main message is ‘STOP & THINK – Take Five to Stop Fraud’ This idea applies to all forms of fraud – Phone Scams, Text Message Scams, E-mail Scams, Online Fraud, and can even be applied to Cold Calling and Deception Fraud. I can do no better than quote from their general 5-point advice:-
- NEVER disclose security details such as your PIN or banking passwords. If you are being asked to hand over personal or financial information, take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself the question – WHY?
- Don’t assume that an e-mail (phishing) or phone call (vishing) is authentic. Just because the message or phone call seems to be from a trusted organisation (such as your bank or the police) take the time to stop and think about what is going on. If in doubt, DELETE the dubious e-mail or HANG UP the phone.
- Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision – if the proposition you are being offered sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is!
- Listen to your instincts – if in your heart you feel that what is being said is NOT genuine, then trust your instincts, take a deep breath and walk away from whatever is on offer. In 2015, 1 in 4 victims of fraud knew immediately that they had made a mistake.
- Stay in control – don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’ or hang up the phone. If you think you MAY have become a victim of fraud, report the incident immediately to your bank or other financial service provider. It will also be sensible to contact Action Fraud (http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/), 0300 123 2040
If you would like me to write on a specific topic, or have an interest in Neighbourhood Watch feel free to contact me
Neighbourhood Watch News - November 2016
Many Bank Debit and many Credit Cards are now being issued with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) capability for ‘contactless’ use. This allows payments of up to £30 to be made by simply touching the appropriate card reader with your card, similar to the way the Oyster Card works on the rail network.
Contactless cards carry this symbol:
However, if you happened to watch BBC TV’s ‘Rip-off Britain’ a few weeks ago, you might have been alarmed to see how the information on a contactless card appeared to be ‘captured’ by thieves using an RFID reader, often installed as an ‘App’ on a ‘smartphone’. With this information they were then apparently able to make a number of purchases without the three-digit CVC security number on the card, and the victim was not even aware that their details had been stolen – until they got their next card statement! And all the thieves had to do was brush against your bag or your hip pocket with their RFID reader – not difficult at a crowded bus or train station!
Although the UK Card Association’s web site carries information to refute these claims about card data ‘theft’, there seems to be a growing body of evidence to suggest that there is a potential risk associated with the security of contactless cards. A number of companies are now selling RF-proof card cases and sleeves, and Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association now has available the Card Defender. This is an inexpensive metallised foil sleeve into which your contactless card is slipped, and it is then protected from data theft, although you do need to remove the card from the sleeve to use it. The sleeve also offers useful physical protection.
Can be ordered here https://neighbourhoodwatchwycombe.org/security-products-for-sale/
Reporting ‘untaxed’ vehicles
One of the benefits of the ‘old’ car tax disc was that anyone could see at a glance whether a vehicle was appropriately taxed to be on the road. This was particularly helpful in the case of abandoned vehicles, although I remember seeing one example where a tax disc had been cleverly ‘doctored’ to change the ‘year’ so that it appeared valid. Now that vehicles no longer have to display a tax disc, how can we tell whether or not it is correctly taxed? Inevitably in the 21st Century, access to the Internet is a requirement, but nowadays, most people either have immediate access, or can get access via the library or a friend.
The address of the government web site for checking whether a vehicle is taxed or not, is:
Neighbourhood Watch News - October 2016
Summer’s Gone – Autumn is here!
Well it wasn’t a bad summer was it? A mixture of extremes – heavy rain at times early on, followed by some very hot days. Now Autumn is with us, the evenings are drawing in and we need to be thinking of our security as the hours of darkness increase. Here are some basic tips:
- Make your house look occupied when you are out in the evening, by having a light on a timer, either in a room not visible from the road, or upstairs.
- Make sure you secure all ground floor windows and doors when you leave the house, and remember to close any other accessible windows.
- Keep your keys securely out of sight – it is not a good idea to have them all hanging, neatly labelled, on a board in the hall.
- Keep any tools secure in your garden shed or garage. Consider installing a shed alarm or a padlock alarm. Anything which disturbs a potential intruder is valuable.
- Remember – the majority of burglaries are ‘opportunist’, so anything we can do to reduce opportunities for crime will help us all.
Some parts of the Wycombe area have been troubled in recent months by a spate of ‘cold callers’.
- Nottingham Knockers: Generally, these are young men selling cleaning materials and small household goods from a bag they carry from door to door. They have sympathy stories, such as ‘the goods are made by charities’ or that ‘they have been in prison and they are doing this doorstep selling as a rehabilitation programme’. There is no such programme. The goods tend to be of inferior quality but with superior prices. They could be checking out your house for a subsequent burglary or they could step inside your house to steal something while you go to get some money. Do not buy from them.
- Property maintenance: This heading could include roofing, guttering, cladding, drive resurfacing, tree lopping etc. They tend to charge excessive prices, but for inferior work or do work that isn’t really needed at all. They always want paying in cash so that they cannot be traced afterwards and they never provide any estimates, invoices etc. They may ask for a deposit and then not turn up to do the work. Really considerable sums of money can be involved. Do not do business with them.
The key point is that, if you encounter anyone at the door in either of these two categories, feel absolutely confident to report their presence to the police on 101, even if nothing has gone wrong. The police will want to check them out and to encourage them to leave the area.
Neighbourhood Watch News - Aug/Sept 2016
Identity Crimes: Identity Theft and Identity Fraud
In parallel with the reduction of ‘traditional’ acquisitive crime, our society is seeing a significant increase in ‘Identity Crime’ which is often a feature of some of the ‘cons and scams’ already reported on.
- Identity theft is the act of obtaining the personal or financial information of a real person with the intent of assuming their identity, usually as a means to gain products, services or other benefits in their name.
If you are a victim of identity theft, it can lead to fraud that can have a direct impact on your personal finances and could also make it difficult for you to obtain loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved.
- Identity fraud is the act of deliberately using a stolen or fictitious identity to:
Obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits.
Open bank accounts.
Order goods in your name.
Take over your existing accounts.
Take out mobile phone contracts.
Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
The tremendous growth of ‘Social Media’, e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc. means that a lot of personal and private data is out there in the electronic web of the internet. It is very important to ensure that whenever possible, your ‘Privacy Settings’ are set so that people you don’t know cannot obtain personal information about you. Although people of all ages can be victims of Identity Crime, information from CIFAS (the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance Service) would indicate that in 2015, Identity Fraud affecting victims aged 30 and below, increased by 52%, and this is the group in society who are the main users of Social Media. CIFAS data also suggests that in 2015, 86% of cases of Identity Theft were carried out online so this is where you need to be particularly careful. Identity Theft will almost invariably lead to Identity Fraud.
Many of us run our lives from a Smart Phone, Tablet or Laptop, so it crucial to ensure that these devices have good protection against ‘hacking’ and data theft. Remember that WiFi hotspots are unlikely to be secure, so avoid using them for online banking or shopping where your personal data, account details and PIN numbers are potentially at risk.
Identity Theft requires the gathering of information about an individual and then putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together to create the fraudulent Identity. As well as online information, the jigsaw can often be supplemented by documentary data from discarded bills, bank and credit card statements, government documents, etc. so you need to be careful when disposing of old paperwork. It is a good idea to shred those documents which contain crucial bits of personal data. Make sure that the passwords you use for important accounts are as ‘strong’ as possible. Avoid using familiar names, dates and the like.
If you think you have been a victim, contact your bank, phone and card provider, etc. promptly. Inform the police or Action Fraud and keep a record of ALL your communications.
Neighbourhood Watch News - July 2016
Summer Burglary Prevention Advice
Thames Valley Police recently issued a TVAlert on this topic, and the advice is so timely that it is worth repeating for the benefit of residents who do not receive TVAlerts.
They remind residents to remain vigilant with regards to their home security as the weather gets warmer. It is important that you do not leave ground floor windows or doors open and unlocked unless you are in that room – it only takes a second for someone to enter your home and take things without you noticing. Most burglars are opportunistic and a property that presents itself as insecure is far more likely to be targeted than one which is properly secured.
The following are their ‘Top Tips’ for keeping your property secure over the summer:
- Always close and lock your windows and doors when leaving your property – even a small open window could entice a burglar.
- If you’re in your garden make sure the windows and doors at the front of your property are secure.
- Do not leave valuables on display through windows.
- Any car or house keys should be out of sight and some distance from a window or door.
- Ensure that any side entrance is secure, locked and not easy to climb over, even when you’re at home.
- If you want to leave windows open while you sleep, fit window restrictors so they cannot be fully opened.
- Consider installing a visible security light or alarm to deter criminals.
- If you’re going on holiday make arrangements to ensure that your house appears occupied whilst you’re away. Put your lights on a timer and ask a neighbour to come and pick up your mail and draw your curtains. Don’t advertise the fact you're on holiday on social media.
TVPolice also encourage you to register your high end valuables such as bikes, mobile phones, laptops, etc. on the online property database Immobilise. It’s free to do so, only takes a couple of minutes and could help them reunite you with your property should it be stolen.
If you see anyone acting suspiciously, call the police either on 101 - or 999 in an emergency.
If you don't want to speak directly to the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online.
Cons and Scams.
Since my article on this topic last month, there have been TVAlerts relating to Euro 2016 Ticketing Fraud and Counterfeit Cheques Fraud – these problems are not going away!
Neighbourhood Watch News - June 2016
Cons and Scams
As reported by Thames Valley Police at the recent Annual General Meeting of Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association, ‘traditional’ acquisitive crime has seen a downturn, but it has been replaced by more sophisticated crimes, often using modern internet technology.
For example, in April and May, there were TVAlerts relating to:
- Spoof emails (Phishing) which try to make you open attachments or links in the message which can lead you to undesirable websites, or install malware on your computer.
- ‘Payment diversion’ scams, when you are conned into making a payment to a trader you are legitimately dealing with, but the money actually goes to the fraudster.
- Social Media Ticket Fraud when you are offered tickets to sports or entertainment events via social media sites, requiring you to provide bank or card payment details which go astray.
- Wine Investment Fraud preying on those who have ‘invested’ in parcels of ‘quality wine’. The fraudster offers to purchase your investment at an attractive price via a fake website, the stock is transferred but the money never materialises.
- HMRC Tax Rebate Scam when you are asked to provide bank details to facilitate the payment of a substantial tax rebate into your account. Never fall for this one!
- Online recruitment of ‘agents’ via Facebook to sell attractive, high value items via e-Bay on behalf of the recruiter. Money paid to the ‘agent’ is transferred to the recruiter, but the ‘purchaser’ then claims the items were either not delivered or phoney. The ‘agent’ is left out of pocket.
- Purchasing pets online – the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has reported an increase in the number of pets being offered for sale via auction websites. In the majority of cases the pet does not exist, but purchasers have parted with bank or card details to secure payment. Never buy online; only ever obtain a pet from an approved retailer/breeder or consider a ‘rescue’ animal.
- The latest scam (at the time of writing) relates to phishing emails appearing to be from Apple claiming that your iCloud or iTunes account has expired, and seeking bank or card payment to ensure continuity of service. Don’t be fooled – DELETE such messages and report to Action Fraud.
If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by any of these cons and scams, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Summer is Here – or is it?
There were the occasional days during May when it seemed as though summer was almost with us – and then it turned cool, wet and windy – again! Maybe like me, you brushed the cobwebs off the BBQ and checked stocks of charcoal or gas……? Hopefully, by the time this reaches you, summer will have settled in and we can all look forward to ‘days of wine and roses’. However, don’t relax your guard when it comes to the security of home, car, etc. Ensure that doors and windows are secure when you are out enjoying the summer, and especially when you are on holiday. Enjoy!
Neighbourhood Watch News - May 2016
Vishing – a case history
Many of us will have picked up the phone when it has rung to be greeted by a ‘foreign-sounding’ voice telling us that ‘they are calling from Microsoft (or some other Internet-related organisation) about the problem that there is with your computer……’ Generally, the best plan is to hang up straightaway or engage the caller in some meaningless conversation until they hang up in frustration! However, if you happen to be in an ongoing situation with a computer supplier or internet service provider (ISP), you may be taken off-guard and believe that the call is genuine and that it really is in relation to your ongoing problem.
This happened to one of our village residents recently, and they gave the caller online access to their computer in the mistaken belief that this was going to resolve the current problem with the ISP. After almost an hour of following instructions from the caller, the ‘repair’ was apparently completed and the resident was told to hang-up and then restart the computer. Things appeared to be progressing normally until a data entry box appeared headed – ‘Enter your Windows password’
Hello! What password is this then? Never had to enter a password before – why should I need a password now? Try as they might, the resident was unable to bypass this screen so could not get access to their PC. Slowly, it dawned on them that they had fallen prey to a ‘vishing attack’ and that they were now locked out of their computer. They contacted a friend who was familiar with problematic PC’s, but try as he might, the friend was unable to bypass the ‘Password’ screen – unable to boot into ‘Safe Mode’, unable to do a ‘System Restore’, nothing worked. They contacted their local PC supplier but he was not optimistic about being able to recover the PC and its data. Apparently, Microsoft bury an encrypted password within the operating system, which the ‘Vishers’ manage to locate and install whilst they have control of your PC. The chances of being able to circumvent this password are vanishingly small.
So, the PC is now back at the shop from where it was purchased. If their technicians are unable to resolve the password issue, the only solution will be to completely re-format the hard disk and re-install the operating system. ALL the application software and data which were originally transferred from their old PC, or added since, will be DELETED and some software may have to be re-purchased to obtain licensed copies.
The moral of this story is:
- NEVER give an unknown telephone caller online control over your PC
- ALWAYS back-up your important data on a regular basis.
What these ‘Vishers’ hope to gain from this malevolent practice eludes me! The more devious scam is for the ‘Vishers’ to install ‘Ransom-ware’ on your PC, which will lock you out until you cough up some money – and even then they may not release your PC. However, there are often ways to resolve this type of problem but they require use of specialised (generally) free software and access to a working computer.
You have been warned!
Neighbourhood Watch News - April 2016
COURIER FRAUD – Again!
Readers who are part of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, or who are registered to receive Thames Valley Alerts from the police, will be well aware of the recent fraud that affected one of our village residents. At the risk of repeating information, it is important that we are all aware of this type of fraud, so that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones, and reduce the risk of falling foul to these unscrupulous tricksters.
The fraud works like this:
- The fraudster phones you, claiming to be from the police, your bank, credit card provider, etc. They will often quote some personal information that will re-assure you that they are genuine!
- They will claim that there has been unusual activity observed on your bank/card account and that they need your help to track down the culprits. They may ask you for some card details – ‘to confirm that the card is in your possession’. This should ring LOUD alarm bells.
- To provide further re-assurance that they are genuine, they may suggest you ring back on a number for your bank or card company known to you, but they are able to keep the line open so you are still talking to the fraudster even though you have dialled a new number. Always try dialling 123 (TIM) to confirm the line has been cleared, or use a mobile phone to circumvent this trick.
- They may then ask for you card PIN or suggest you enter it via the phone keypad. They may also ask for details of other accounts you hold – ‘for confirmation purposes’! Even LOUDER alarm bells should be ringing at this point. No bank, credit card provider or the police will ever ask you for your PIN as this is only known to you, and banks already know about your accounts.
- Finally, the fraudster will advise you that a courier will call to collect the card. Should you part with your card, they now have it and your PIN and can remove money from your account.
Protect yourself against this type of fraud:
- The police, your bank or card company will NEVER send a courier to your home.
- Likewise, they will NEVER ask you for your PIN
- Should you receive one of these calls, put the phone down immediately to end the call.
- Report the event to the police on 101 and/or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
- If you have been duped and handed over your card(s) call your bank/card provider immediately and CANCEL your card(s).
There is further information available on the Action Fraud website – see below. In addition, ‘Prompt Cards’ which can be displayed in the home – by the phone – can be found in the Crime Prevention section of the Thames Valley Police website at:
Neighbourhood Watch News - March 2016
NEW SCHEME STARTED
In early February, a successful ‘Start-up’ meeting was held for residents of Wilfrid’s Wood Close and the far end of Blind Lane. A ‘volunteer’ – something hard to find these days! – had come forward offering to set up a scheme and about twenty residents, representing approx. 50% of the houses canvassed, attended the meeting. After an introduction to the aims, benefits and operation of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme by myself, Geoff Pegg, Director of Operations for Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association (WDNHWA), described some of the types of crime combated by Neighbourhood Watch, ranging from burglary through to ‘theft from motor vehicle’ and cybercrime. In addition, the benefits of setting up a ‘No Doorstep Selling Zone’, to deter unwanted doorstep callers were described. Refreshments were kindly provided by our host and there was a useful Q&A session, and the opportunity to obtain some of the many useful leaflets on personal and property safety and security. Unfortunately, due to their shift patterns and support to the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) meeting that same evening, the police were unable to attend.
If you live in the area covered by the scheme and would like to join, contact me (details below) and I will put you in touch with the scheme co-ordinator.
With Spring hopefully just around the corner, many will be thinking of dusting off their bicycles in anticipation of some pleasant outings. Sadly, theft of bicycles is not uncommon, especially when cycles are left unattended whilst visiting local beauty spots – or even a local pub!
BikeRegister is the UK’s police-approved national cycle database. It is the leading online bicycle identification and registration initiative aiming to reduce cycle theft, identify stolen bikes, and assist in owner recovery. The BikeRegister Membership Plus kit contains two highly durable tamper-resistant QR barcode labels as well as a membership card that enables you to register your bicycle on the database. You can even add a photo to it. The labels can be scanned with a smart-phone to identify your bike on the BikeRegister website and determine whether it has been stolen.
For more information, visit the BikeRegister website at: https://www.bikeregister.com/
WDNHWA is able to supply BikeRegister products at attractive prices, and can be contacted via myself or at:
NHWATCH STREET SIGNS
Some of you will be aware that the Co-op in High Wycombe gave a grant to WDNHWA last year to purchase a supply of NHWatch street signs. There are still some available, so if your street signage is looking worse for wear following the stormy weather earlier in the year, get your co-ordinator to contact me for a replacement.
Neighbourhood Watch News - February 2016
HAPPY NEW YEAR
I hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Christmas and send my best wishes for 2016.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?
Neighbourhood Watch is the largest single UK voluntary organisation whose main objectives are to help reduce crime and the fear of crime. The current financial constraints being faced by the police will inevitably have an impact on policing, which will make Neighbourhood Watch even more valuable. Neighbourhood Watch continues to grow in the Wycombe Local Policing Area (LPA), and the Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association is the most active in the Thames Valley area. Their web-site can be found at:
Why not make it one of your New Year Resolutions to start a scheme in your road? If you are already in a scheme, how about giving your scheme a bit of a refresher? Have any new residents been invited to join your scheme? Is your street signage up to scratch? The recent Thames Valley Alert reporting street sign sponsorship by the Co-op in High Wycombe has seen a very good response.
Talk to anyone in an active Neighbourhood Watch scheme, and they will confirm the benefits – both practical and social – of belonging to a scheme. You may even get a reduction in your household insurance! Plans are already in hand to start a new scheme for Wilfred’s Wood Close/Blind Lane.
CRIME IN THE CHEPPING/WYE VALLEY AREA
Data collected by our Neighbourhood Policing Team indicates that we are fortunate in living in a relatively low-crime area, although we still experience the occasional ‘Theft from Motor Vehicle’ and some ‘Antisocial Behaviour’. However, we are probably all aware of the increase in deception crime by doorstep callers – despite the establishment of ‘No Cold Calling’ schemes. We can all help combat this by being more aware of our vulnerable neighbours. There has also been a significant increase in the level of ‘Cyber-crime’ and we must all take the appropriate steps to protect ourselves and our families from such crime in our ever-increasing electronic society.
SPEEDING IN OUR VILLAGE
Whilst ‘speeding’ is often a perception rather than being borne out by hard facts, there is no doubt that a minority of our local drivers – and some of those passing through – do exceed the 30 mph speed limit throughout the village. Your Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) continues to have ‘Speeding’ as one of their priority items, and CWPC now possesses ‘Moveable Vehicle Activated Signs (MVAS)’ which are seen at various locations around our village. Data collected by these devices is used to initiate speed enforcement activity by the Roads Policing team. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Neighbourhood Watch News - December 2015 / January 2016
See and be seen!
I know this is not really a NHWatch issue, but…….! Remember that fog and mist we had in November? I was amazed to see how many people chose to drive around during the day without ANY LIGHTS showing. OK, headlights during daylight hours may not help YOU to see any better, but they do ensure that other road users can SEE YOU. Those extra milliseconds of visibility can mean the difference between a HIT and a MISS. Make it a rule – when visibility is reduced for whatever reason – USE YOUR HEADLIGHTS.
Safety & Security at Christmas – or anytime!
Those of us who are old enough to be called ‘Senior Citizens’, ‘Seniors, ‘OAP’s’ or whatever your favourite descriptor is, will just about remember when it was considered quite safe to leave your house unlocked, or to ‘hide’ a latch-key; when cars were still a luxury and central locking hadn’t been thought of; when policemen trudged their beats and deterred casual criminality! Sadly, those times are long gone, and we have to be on our guard at all times to reduce the opportunities for theft, robbery and burglary, and we now have the added threat of ‘Cybercrime’!.
Christmas is a time of plenty for the criminal – unless we take some fairly simple precautions to reduce the risk of the festive season being spoilt for ourselves, our family and our friends. Here are a few tips:
- When out and about doing your Christmas shopping, ALWAYS lock purchases in the boot of your car. Don’t leave things visible on the seats – that is asking for trouble. NEVER leave you car unlocked, even on your own front drive!
- If you put gifts at the foot of your Christmas tree, consider drawing the curtains in the evening to reduce visibility to the casual ‘window shopper’. Put high value presents away in a safe place, not under the tree! Get them out on Christmas Day.
- Make your property appear occupied, especially during the hours of darkness, by leaving a radio on and having one or two lights on timer switches. These are very inexpensive and some even ‘learn’ to switch on and off as though you are at home.
- Don’t leave your house and car keys visible in your porch or hall. Burglars can easily ‘fish’ these out via your letter box or cat flap!
- If you leave the house unattended – even if only for a few minutes – ensure that external doors and windows are secure. Most burglaries are by opportunist thieves.
- Don’t leave ladders and tools easily accessible – these can be used to gain entry.
- Make sure that your Home Contents Insurance Policy is paid up-to-date, and check whether you are covered for increased risk over the Christmas period.
- Finally, look at your property through the eyes of a burglar and see if you can identify places where someone could break in unseen.
Have a safe and happy Christmas. My very best wishes to you all for 2016
Neighbourhood Watch News – October 2015
Some Good News
Residents who are registered to receive ‘Thames Valley Alerts’ may remember that back in December 2014, I sent out an Alert entitled ‘They who call are not always from National Grid – or The Police.’ Well, I am delighted to report that ‘a man has been arrested’ in connection with this case and will no doubt face criminal charges in due course. In addition, our resident has recovered the money out of which she was ‘conned’ by these crafty and callous individuals. However, not all cases of this sort have such a satisfactory outcome, so always be on your guard – see next items.
Continuing along the same vein, did you catch the recent item on the National News – and covered in detail in Paul Lewis’ ‘Money Box’ – about the lady who was ‘persuaded’ to part with £12,000 by a team of men claiming to represent Santander. Fortuitously, their telephone conversations had been recorded by the lady’s family who were concerned about her ‘vulnerability’. The criminals were very convincing, gradually developing the lady’s trust over several days by feeding her correct information, etc., despite her initial suspicion. Although the money had been quickly moved out of the fraudster’s account to other accounts, the genuine bank was able to follow the electronic trail and eventually recover all the money. Initially, both the lady’s bank and the police had been reluctant to follow-up the case, saying that the lady had ‘consented’ to the money being transferred!
Investment Fraud – cold calls
This has become an increasing problem following changes to the ‘Personal Pension’ rules.
How to protect yourself against investment fraud:
- If you’re considering any type of investment, always remember - if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. High returns can only be achieved with high risk.
- If you get a call out of the blue, be wary. If in doubt don’t be polite, just hang up.
- Take the time to seek independent legal or financial advice before making a decision.
- Always check the credentials of the company you’re dealing with. Check for known fraudulent organisations at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website.
End of Summertime.
‘What summer?’ I hear you mutter! Well, there were a couple of days in early July when it got really hot, followed by the wettest August on record,…….!
Nevertheless, on Sunday, October 25th at 2 am, the clocks all go BACK one hour. This means that the evenings will become darker much earlier, so don’t forget to reset all your security timer devices to take account of the change.
Neighbourhood Watch News – August / September 2015
To return from holiday to find that your home has been burgled in your absence must be a horrible experience. Make sure that you take these simple precautions to reduce the risk of this happening to you:
- Ensure that ALL windows, doors and gates are securely closed and locked before you go.
- Make your home look occupied by having a radio and/or lights on a timer. Ask a relative or a trusted friend/neighbour to close curtains at night and remove any visible mail/deliveries..
- Ask a neighbour to use your drive and put out and return your bins on the right days.
Is HP10 a crime hotspot?
If you have visited the Bucks Free Press website recently, you may have seen the article claiming that the HP10 postcode area is the 20th most burgled postcode area in the UK. They arrived at this startling ‘fact’ by counting the number of insurance claims per thousand head of population. Well, I should like to see how they reached that conclusion! Our Neighbourhood Policing Team have confirmed that this claim is incorrect, and in fact, burglary across the whole of the Wycombe Local Policing Area (LPA) is down to just over half what it was two years ago. The latest crime statistics published by Thames Valley Police are for May, and record just 4 burglaries in the Chepping Wye Valley area – which includes HP10 – during that month.
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is FREE!
On the same day that the change to the PEC Regs was reported by the BBC (see July issue), I received a call from a NHWatch member in the village who had received a phone call, when the caller claimed to be from the TPS. They attempted to persuade our resident that their ‘subscription’ to the TPS was soon to expire, and wanted card details for renewal…..!! Well, the TPS is a FREE service, and whilst it may not block every unwanted call, it does provide some protection. The call came from an 0203 area code, and a quick ‘Google’ of the number revealed that it had frequently been associated with ‘phishing’ calls posing as the TPS, amongst other annoying tricks.
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
The phone number was omitted from the July issue. It is: 0303 123 1113
Neighbourhood Watch News – July 2015
More on unwanted phone calls, etc.
Many of us moan about some of the infuriating legislation foisted upon us by the EU, but perhaps here’s something that we can all appreciate. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive has been implemented in the UK as Regulations of the same name (PEC Regs). At the beginning of April, these Regulations were amended to give the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) greater powers to prosecute and close down offending organisations.
Essentially, the PEC Regs sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people more privacy in relation to electronic communications and there are specific rules relating to:
- marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
- cookies (and similar technologies);
- keeping communications services secure; and
- customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.
You can report organizations who continue to make unwanted calls and who flout the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) by contacting the ICO on the number listed below.
On the same day that this change was reported by the BBC, I received a call from a NHWatch member in the village who had received a phone call, when the caller claimed to be from the TPS. They attempted to persuade our resident that their ‘subscription’ to the TPS was soon to expire, and wanted card details for renewal…..!! Well, the TPS is a FREE service, and whilst it may not block every unwanted call, it does provide some protection. The call came from an 0203 area code, and a quick ‘Google’ of the number revealed that it had frequently been associated with ‘phishing’ calls posing as the TPS, amongst other annoying tricks.
In the hope that the weather has eventually settled down to give us some summer, don’t forget about the security of your house, garden and car, etc. when you are out and about enjoying a bit of sunshine:
- Secure all vulnerable doors and windows when away from your home
- Don’t leave the front door unlocked whilst you are enjoying a BBQ in the back garden
- Make sure your car is securely locked when parking anywhere, and DO NOT leave a pet animal in the car, even with a window cracked open. The temperature inside a car left in the sun can rapidly rise to over 40 degrees C, and no animal – apart from a camel – can survive in that heat.
Have a safe and enjoyable summer.
Neighbourhood Watch News – June 2015
Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association – Annual General Meeting
I was pleased to see some representation from Flackwell Heath at the AGM held on April 14th. After the formal business of the meeting, the Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC gave a fascinating talk about the role of the Attorney General, a position he held for over 4 years. His talk was followed by Acting Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) Richard List (Thames Valley Police) who described the various forms of cyber crime and the effects these were having on individuals, the economy and the world in general. However, it is encouraging to note that we can reduce our risk of exposure to cybercrime by up to 80% by implementing some relatively simple safeguards.
Reducing your exposure to Cybercrime.
The following is a list of the various forms of cybercrime that we are potentially at risk from:
- Hoax E-Mails
- Identity Theft
- Cyber Bullying
The best way to protect you and your computer against the many forms of Cybercrime, is to use a secure antivirus program and a reliable anti-Malware program. Many of the FREE versions are perfectly adequate if used sensibly. Also, never open programs or email attachments unless you are sure of their origins – even if they appear to have been sent by a friend. They may in fact be malicious.
For more detailed information, visit:
Spring into Action: Protect your sheds and outbuildings.
In a recent Thames Valley Alert, the police put forward some very useful tips towards improving the security of our property, particularly our garden sheds and other outbuildings. They are certainly worth repeating:
- Make access to areas where sheds and outbuildings are located as difficult as possible – lock all side and rear gates using a bolt and padlock or hasp and staple lock and make sure fencing/hedging is secure. Prickly plants can be used around the fence line to deter access.
- Install passive security lighting (PIR) in gardens.
- Keep sheds, garage and outbuilding locked with good quality locks - padlock alarms are available from hardware shops – and NHWatch - that sound if any attempt is made to tamper with it.
- Consider putting bars on the windows of sheds etc. to prevent break-ins. Cover accessible windows with eg. curtain netting, to restrict visual examination of the shed contents.
- Strengthen the security of sheds by reinforcing door hinges, fitting doors with non-returnable screws or coach bolts.
- Do not leave tools and equipment in gardens but keep them locked away and consider securing these with cables and chains with robust padlocks.
- Have power tools, garden implements and pedal cycles security marked with a post code and house number and deterrent warning stickers placed on the shed/garage/outbuilding windows. Use an ultra violet pen, or a permanent marker pen on more heavy duty items such as lawn mowers.
Neighbourhood Watch News – May 2015
Potential for a ‘phishing’ expedition
Many of you will be aware of the change to the rules concerning ‘Pension Pots’ introduced recently be the Coalition Government. Well, this is a potential area where ‘phishing’ expeditions could be targeted at the unwary, in an attempt by the fraudsters to get you to release your valuable pension savings into their unscrupulous grasp.
Should you receive any unsolicited e-mails (or phone calls) from individuals or organisations claiming to offer ‘free’ advice regarding how you might use a ‘pension pot’ – assuming that you are lucky enough to have one in the first place – be VERY cautious as to how you respond. In fact, the best advice is to simply IGNORE such unsolicited approaches. For your own peace of mind only take advice from either the Government’s Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) or from an independent pensions advisor that you select on the basis of best advice and choice.
TPAS can be accessed online at: https://www.gov.uk/pensions-advisory-service
In early April, our Neighbourhood Sergeant – Sgt Mat Lloyd – distributed via TVAlerts a summary of crime and crime-prevention activities for the Chepping Wye Valley policing area. The following crime statistics are encouraging, comparing 2015 with the same period in 2014:
- There have been 23 house burglaries, compared to 28 the preceding year
- There were 69 fewer theft offences
- Bicycle thefts have fallen from 5 to 3
- And violence with injury has fallen from 35 to 31
- Theft from motor vehicle, despite a recent increase, is still at 67 this year compared to 87 over the previous period.
Many of these reductions will have been assisted by the simple precautions advocated by Neighbourhood Watch supported by the police.
Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association – Annual General Meeting
I was pleased to see some representation from Flackwell Heath at the AGM held on April 14th. After the formal business of the meeting, the Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC gave a fascinating talk about the role of the Attorney General, a position he held for over 4 years. His talk was followed by Acting Assistant Chief Constable (Crime) Richard List (Thames Valley Police) who described the various forms of cyber crime and the effects these were having on individuals, the economy and the world in general. However, it is encouraging to note that we can reduce our risk of exposure to cyber crime by up to 80% by implementing some relatively simple safeguards.
Neighbourhood Watch News – April 2015
Summer Time is with us – but will we have a half-decent summer?
The clocks went FORWARD by 1 hour on Sunday, March 29th – Yes! I did check my facts…..! Don’t forget to re-set any electrical/electronic timers that you use around your house for security purposes, to reflect this change. In fact, as the days get longer, it is probably appropriate to change the ON/OFF times as well, to take account of the lighter evenings.
Local Crime Rates
Although any crime is one too many, it is encouraging to note that when comparing year on year crime rates for our area, 2014/15 saw a small decrease in the majority of crimes that are likely to affect us as a community. In terms of the number of crimes per 1,000 population, Wycombe recorded approx. 40, compared with approx. 50 for the Thames Valley as a whole.
There is a wealth of crime prevention information available from Neighbourhood Watch and from the police, including from their various web sites for those of you who have internet access.
Although Flackwell Heath has experienced the occasional burglary or attempted burglary, one of the most common crimes at present is ‘Theft from Motor Vehicles’ (TFMV), as opposed to theft of motor vehicle. In particular, vans are a common target, in the belief that they will contain items of value such as power tools. These are easily disposed of for cash. Some simple precautions can reduce the risk of your van being the target:
- If possible, don’t leave any items of value in your van!
- Park in a well lit area in such a way as to prevent thieves from gaining access to doors and working unobserved.
- Clearly mark all items of value – this will reduce their value to thieves and increase the chance of stolen items being re-united with you.
- Fit an approved alarm to your vehicle.
Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association – Annual General Meeting
This year, the AGM returns to the Church Hall at the Church of Christ the Servant King on the corner of Cressex Road and Sycamore Road, Booker, HP12 4TJ on Tuesday, April 14th at 7.30 pm. We are pleased to note that the guest speakers will be Dominic Grieve QC, and DCI Richard List from TVPolice who will talk about Cybercrime, which as noted last month, is now a significant problem and on the increase. All are welcome to attend this meeting, although only members of Neighbourhood Watch can vote (if required)
Neighbourhood Watch News – March 2015
TVAlerts - Website: https://www.thamesvalleyalert.co.uk/
TVAlerts are messages sent out to our area by Thames Valley Police from the Wycombe Police Station advising of crimes in the district, providing safety and security information, details of ‘missing persons’, etc. All members of Neighbourhood Watch schemes have access to these messages, either via their scheme coordinator or by personal registration with the TVAlerts system. However, as the system principally uses e-mail to communicate these messages, it is vital that you let us know of any change in your e-mail address. You can do this by logging on to your personal account with TVAlerts, or by telling your scheme coordinator – or myself. If you do NOT have an e-mail account, you can also receive TVAlerts by voicemail, but again it is essential that you advise us of any change to your phone number(s). [There are currently restrictions on the number of messages being sent out as a result of staff changes at Wycombe.]
This is one of the fastest growing types of crime and includes ‘Phishing’ (e-mail crime) and ‘Vishing’ (telephone crime). Cybercrime is either ‘Internet-dependent’ (only possible via the Internet) or ‘Internet-enabled’ (extending the scope of ‘traditional’ crime via the Internet). There have been reports of local residents being ‘conned’ out of substantial sums of money by these devious criminals. In many cases, they operate from outside the UK which makes it very difficult to track them down and successfully prosecute them. Cybercrime is now extending its unpleasant tentacles into the ‘social networking’ arena, attempting to exploit any weaknesses in Facebook, Twitter, etc. or trying to ‘persuade’ the victim to reveal personal data for identity theft or worse.
Although the latest published ‘Crime Survey for England & Wales (CSEW)’ is now a couple of years old, it shows quite clearly that mobile phones are the most common item involved in ‘Theft from a person’, and bicycles and computers the most common item taken in burglary. However, the survey shows substantial falls in property crime, with levels having fallen by half since they peaked in the mid-1990s. This significant fall has been driven by large reductions in very common crimes such as vandalism, vehicle-related theft and burglary. While these high volume crime types continue to show falls, in contrast, recent trends show increases in the lower volume (less common) personal theft offences such as ‘theft from the person’ recorded by the police.
(Source: CSEW published by the ONS, May 2013)
Home Security Booklet
I have a stock of this useful little booklet on Crime Prevention produced by Thames Valley Police. Contact me if you would like a copy.
Neighbourhood Watch News – February 2015
I imagine that you have all put away the Christmas decorations and lights by now, but perhaps like us, you’ve found a couple of items that have been missed??!! It’s surprising how things right under our noses somehow become ‘invisible’, and that equally applies to potential security weaknesses. Make it one of your New Year Resolutions to carry out an audit of your property – house, garage, shed, car and other property to make sure that all is in order.
PROPERTY MARKING – again!
I know that we are already a month into the New Year, but have you taken steps to security mark any valuable items received for Christmas? It’s been said many times before, but it is still worth repeating. Statistics show that less than 10% of stolen property is ever reunited with the rightful owner, simply because there is NO way to identify who the rightful owner is! The use of appropriate property marking could be invaluable in the unfortunate event that you lose or have a valuable item stolen. There is also a free online service called ‘Immobilise’ (www.immobilise.com/) where you can register details of your valuable items. The police have access to this database which helps them return stolen property to its rightful owner.
PHISHING – in January!
I’ve already been alerted to one potential scam this year, relating to the online renewal of car tax. A resident went online to renew his car tax and inadvertently clicked on a link which appeared to be the DVLA online service, but which turned out to be ‘a secure online payment service CYB-PRO’. Whilst it appears possible to make payments via this service, there will be a charge of some sort, so you invariably end up paying for a service which is FREE if you use the correct address. For vehicle tax renewal this is:
The key things to note are the leading https:// which indicates that the site is encrypted for security, and the www.gov.uk as the main address. ALL UK government departments can be accessed via https://www.gov.uk, but be on your guard for the various ‘spoof’ sites which look like the real thing but which are anything but! There are a number of software add-ons, such as the SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer 8, which help you ‘sort out the wheat from the chaff’.
Neighbourhood Watch News –Dec 2014 / Jan 2015
Another year draws to a close….!
Call-blocking – the ‘FINAL’ solution?
A resident has informed me that it is possible to purchase a device that connects to your phone line to block unwanted calls. This could thwart those companies who try to lock you into a contact to ‘lease’ a box to block unwanted calls! In addition, some specific phones are provided with a built-in blocker, including models from BT and Panasonic.
Just after the November copy deadline, a very successful ‘Start-up’ meeting was held for Churchill Close and coordinators have been identified for the three ‘arms’ of this road. My thanks to the resident who initiated this meeting – this is what Neighbourhood Watch is all about – getting together to look out for your neighbours!
We have all heard the term ‘phishing’ – attempts to obtain our personal details via phoney e-mails and dodgy web links. Well, there is now a new threat to our data which has been given the name ‘Vishing’, the combination of ‘Voice’ and ‘Phishing’. This scam relies on an old feature of the landline telephone system which kept incoming calls ‘open’ to allow transfer between house telephone extensions, and which is still in operation. It works like this. We receive a phone call – apparently from our bank, card provider, building society, or even the police – claiming that unusual or fraudulent activity has been detected on our account. The caller tells us to phone back using a number we know is correct, but unbeknown to us, keeps the line ‘open’ when we hang up. Then when we think we are speaking to our bank or card provider, etc. the caller pretends to be a representative or another person is used, asking us to key in our card details using the phone keypad ‘to confirm that it is in our possession’! Sometimes the PIN or CVC will be requested. Once they have this information, they can make fraudulent use of our card or bank accounts.
Have your say!
If you have any ideas for topics relating to crime prevention or personal/property safety that you would like me to include in this Newsletter, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I claim no unique ability to decide what to write about, and will be very happy to consider your suggestions.
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Have a safe and very happy Christmas; best wishes for 2015
Neighbourhood Watch News – Nov 2014
British Summertime ended on October 26th
No prizes for spotting the error!!
I must apologise for the mis-information in the October issue, relating to the end of Summertime. As one observant reader pointed out, the hour goes BACK not Forward in the Autumn.
I must remember: Spring – FORWARD; Fall – BACK. Was my face red! J
There has been a spate of burglaries across the Wycombe policing area of late, though fortunately not affecting Flackwell Heath to the best of my knowledge. The police have offered several tips to reduce the risk of your being a victim of burglary:
- Keep windows and doors shut, locked and in good condition
- Property mark your valuables with a UV pen or forensic property marking kit
- Use timer switches to make your home look occupied in the evenings
- Ensure car keys are safely stored away from the front door
- Keep tools and ladders locked away out of sight.
For more Crime Reduction tips and information visit the Thames Valley Police website www.thamesvalley.police.uk and click on the 'crime prevention' tab. In addition, the Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association has useful information on their website at:
More on unwanted phone calls
Many of today’s phones offer a ‘Caller Display’ facility on the handset, although some providers require a small payment for the ‘Caller ID’ service. However, many cold-callers ‘hide’ their number or display a phoney number which is very frustrating. I had an interesting e-mail from one reader regarding unwanted/unidentifiable phone calls. He has tried two methods of dealing with them. Firstly, answering the call and then blowing a whistle into the microphone before ending the call; secondly, answering the call and just putting the handset down until the caller gets bored with talking to no-one! I have certainly used the second method. However, as the reader pointed out, many legitimate users, both private and business, have their ‘Number Withheld’ for various reasons, so it is very difficult to separate the genuine from the unwanted. If you have an Answerphone, and you don’t recognise the calling number, or it is ‘Withheld’, simply let the call go to Answerphone and listen to any message. A genuine caller who needs to speak to you will usually start to leave a message, whereupon you have the option to pick up the phone and talk. Cold-callers will invariably hang-up.
Neighbourhood Watch News – Oct 2014
End of British Summertime and return to GMT – October 26th
I hope that everyone has had a safe and enjoyable summer, but Autumn is now with us and the evenings are getting darker earlier. Don’t forget to check all your clocks, watches and timers when the hour goes BACK at 2am on Sunday October 26th. Halloween and Bonfire Night are only a few days later…!
Unwanted phone calls
In recent months there has been a rise in the number of unsolicited calls being received by people despite being registered on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). These calls are mainly from companies that deliberately ignore the law and either hide or disguise their identity. They may withhold the number they are calling from or display a fake number. They sometimes use generic sounding names that cannot be used to identify accurately an organisation, e.g. Solar Panels UK, PPI Claims Ltd. etc. or they may refuse to give you any details at all. A recent example is of a company trying to persuade you to take out a 3-year contract for the supply of a ‘box’ to block unwanted calls! Such companies are very difficult to trace, making enforcement extremely difficult or even impossible. The only remedy is to hang up. Don’t ‘Press 9’ or take any other action suggested by the caller – it is unlikely to be effective.
Use of CCTV by private individuals
We are all aware of the use of Closed-circuit TV (CCTV) in many everyday situations – in shopping precincts, inside shops, around our towns and roads, etc. and they are extremely valuable in helping to keep our towns and communities safe and to assist the police in their efforts to combat crime in general. The use of CCTV in public areas is very carefully controlled with Guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to ensure compliance with The Data Protection Act, 1998. The following, however, is an extract from their FAQ’s relating to the use of CCTV by private individuals:-
‘If the cameras are installed on residential property and are for personal domestic use, they are unlikely to breach the Data Protection Act. This is because the use of CCTV cameras for domestic purposes, for example, protecting a home from burglary, is exempt from the data protection principles, even if the camera overlooks the street or other areas near the house. If you are concerned about the use of domestic CCTV, it may be worth contacting your local police. However, if you or your neighbours are using CCTV for business purposes, you'll need to comply with the Act.’
Thames Valley Police have also issued a very useful leaflet on the topic entitled ‘CCTV – Domestic CCTV Guidance’, which can be downloaded at:
(Yes – that IS a double underscore between domestic and advice!)
Neighbourhood Watch News – Aug/Sept 2014
Avoid becoming a victim of burglary – Part 3, Inside the house
- Make your mark. Security mark your valuables with a UV pen or other forensic marking methods such as SelectaDNA or SmartWater
- Out of Sight. Don’t keep valuable items in full view of windows or doors – for example, do not keep expensive audio-visual equipment by the window where passers-by can see it.
- KEYP Safe. Keep your house and car keys out of view and in a secure place. Never leave them in the door where they can easily be reached by intruders. Ensure the other members of your household know where the keys are kept in case of an emergency.
- Anybody home? Most burglars only target empty homes. Use a timer switch to leave a light on during the darker hours.
[Information courtesy of WDC ‘Working for a safer Wycombe’]
Any document that carries information unique to you is potentially of value to the Identity Thief. Examples are: Date of Birth, National Insurance Number, Bank Account Number, Credit Card Number, etc. Ensure that all documents carrying such information are disposed of carefully, ideally by shredding, before putting them out with the waste.
There have been local reports of theft of items of mail, mainly associated with buildings having communal access, such as blocks of flats. If you live in a building of this sort, review the security of your mailboxes with your neighbours. Implement measures that will make it difficult for unauthorised people to gain access to your mail. Theft of mail can be the start of identity theft.
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Next Issue will be in October. Enjoy the rest of the summer!
Neighbourhood Watch News – July 2014
Avoid becoming a victim of burglary – Part 2, Back of the house
- Secure your outbuildings. A shed can be a target as it is often home to expensive tools and equipment. Use a padlock (ideally an alarmed version) in conjunction with tamperproof screws in the hasp and hinges. Fit a blind or mesh to any window to keep out prying eyes.
- Fence them off. Having a good strong fence of reasonable height and in good condition will help deter intruders. A trellis on top will make it more difficult to climb over. The use of prickly shrubs such as Pyracantha, Berberis or Holly will also be a good deterrent.
- Keep tools out of sight and securely stored. An opportunist burglar will use any means of gaining access. Leaving a ladder outside is asking for trouble, and garden tools can be used to break into your home. Make sure that ladders are locked away or chained. Ensure that all valuable tools are suitably security marked as well.
[Information courtesy of WDC ‘Working for a safer Wycombe’]
Antisocial Behaviour (ASB)
ASB is generally described as nuisance behaviour that causes harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons. Examples of ASB are graffiti, neighbour or noise nuisance, intimidating or threatening behaviour, alcohol or drug abuse, criminal damage. It is sometimes difficult to know what to do if you witness or experience ASB, but help is available.
Firstly, report it. If the authorities don’t know about it, there is no way they can do anything about it. Report incidents to the police using 101 (999 in emergency) or to the ASB Team at Wycombe DC (see end of article).
Secondly, keep a diary log of incidents of ASB, which will be of great assistance in the event that legal action is necessary. The courts will only accept an incident diary log prepared in a certain way. If you want further information and/or a copy of the police incident diary log sheet, then please contact me.
I am always pleased to hear from you whether it is to ask for some help or advice, or to give me some information relating to safety or security around the home or in our village. I will always try to respond as quickly as possible, but if you do have to leave a message on my answering machine, please don’t forget to include your name and phone number so that I can acknowledge receipt of your message!
Neighbourhood Watch News – June 2014
Avoid becoming a victim of burglary – Part 1, Front of the house
- Use an intruder alarm. Not only is this a good deterrent, but it will also limit the time any intruder will stay on the premises.
- Use defensive planting. Intruders don’t like climbing over or through prickly plants.
- Lock up. When leaving the house always lock doors and close vulnerable windows.
- Use gravel. Gravel on a path or driveway makes a noise which can alert you.
- Keys. Never leave a key in an accessible place. Keep a spare with a trusted friend.
- Lights on. PIR-activated security lighting is a good deterrent.
- Garage. Keep it locked. A vehicle in a garage is less likely to be stolen
[Information courtesy of WDC ‘Working for a safer Wycombe’]
The Association’s AGM was held on April 29th, and despite the poor weather forecast for that evening, there was a healthy turnout. The formalities of the AGM were presided over by retiring Chairman – Geoff Pegg – who outlined the wide range of activities undertaken by the Association during the last 12 months. The accounts confirmed that we continued to be self-financing, achieved by sale of security products and helped by various donations. We listened to an inspiring story from Simon Hayday, once a habitual drug user and criminal; now a volunteer with SMART – the Substance Misuse Arrest Referral Team – working with the police and other partner organisations to help those with drug problems. Chief Inspector Colin Seaton then reported on the significant reductions across a broad range of criminal activities in the Wycombe LPA achieved during 2013. He welcomed the contribution that Neighbourhood Watch made to crime reduction, especially burglary which often had traumatic consequences following the invasion of our personal and private space. Finally, Gillian Stimpson, manager of the WDC Community Services Department, reported on a range of initiatives being undertaken in our area. In particular, the ‘Nightsafe’ project is to be expanded to the urban/rural areas. Nightsafe is a programme of education, communication and partnership working to tackle the complex issues around having a safe night out, for the benefit of everyone who lives, works, and socialises in High Wycombe. In 2013, Wycombe retained its Purple Flag award – which recognises a safe town centre that offers a quality night out.
Don’t be ‘conned’
There has been a lot of recent media attention given to ‘phoney’ web-sites appearing to be official Government websites for eg. DVLA, Passports, etc. but making additional charges Many of these site appear to be genuine using similar looking websites, logos, web addresses, etc. but don’t be fooled.
Search for the genuine Government site you want by visiting: https://www.gov.uk
Neighbourhood Watch News – May 2014
There seems to have been an increase in the number of ‘phishing’ expeditions in recent weeks, involving both scam phone calls – from ‘BT’ and ‘TalkTalk’ amongst others - as well as from a caller who claims to represent Microsoft – and scam e-mails, curiously appearing to be from the same organisations, as well as from various ‘banks’. Do NOT be taken in by these scammers. They can appear to know your name, but a bit of judicious questioning will often reveal that they are, at best, guessing. One good ploy – if you have nothing better to do – is to engage the caller in a fairly innocuous conversation claiming, for example, that the person being called is not immediately available, but that they might arrive shortly! Eventually, the caller will get frustrated or just bored and will hang up! With ‘phishing’ e-mails, the majority of well known companies will have an e-mail address to which you can forward the ‘phishing’ message. This can often assist the genuine company in tracking down the culprits, especially if you know how to include the ‘message headers’.
Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association (WDNHWA) has a range of good value security products available for scheme members, family and friends. These range from the inexpensive ‘purse-dipping bell’, through various personal and property alarms, to the sophisticated SelectaDNA property marking kit. Full details can be obtained from me or by visiting the WDNHWA web-site listing at:
WDNHWA is looking to recruit onto our Committee, someone – lady or gent - who has a couple of hours a month to spare to take on the role of Secretary. We already have one lady on our Committee who might welcome some company….! The job is not very onerous and involves arranging venues for Committee and other meetings, collating and distributing papers for the various meetings, and taking Minutes at meetings. If you think you might be interested in joining our ‘merry band’, please contact me – details below.
Neighbourhood Watch News – April 2014
Summer is on the way!
I hope that you have all remembered to reset those electric and electronic timers around your home to reflect the change to British Summer Time (BST) which is One Hour ahead of GMT. Summer Time began on March 30th and will continue until October 26th. The evenings will continue to get lighter as Spring progresses, so you may need to check the ON/OFF times to reflect this.
It’s a Scam!
I know that I have reported on scams in the past, but as a result of an increase in the number of telephone scams in our area, Thames Valley Police have mounted a poster campaign to remind us all to be on our guard.
The objective of these unpleasant crooks is to obtain your Bank Card details and associated PIN number, and this is how they frequently go about it:
- The fraudster telephones you claiming to be from your bank or from the police. They tell you that your bank card details have been used fraudulently.
- They suggest that you hang up and ring the bank/police back to ensure that the call is genuine. Don’t be fooled – they are able to stay on the open line and then pretend to be your bank or the police. They then ask you to read out or key in your PIN to verify that you are the legitimate holder.
- They then tell you that a taxi or courier will be around shortly to collect the ‘compromised’ bank card.
- Now they have your Bank Card and your PIN and can help themselves to your money!
- So Remember – your Bank or the Police will never ask you for your Bank Card details or your PIN, whether it is by telephone or e-mail. Never give anyone this valuable information; avoid using the same PIN whenever possible and keep your cards and PIN’s separate, just in case…….
Neighbourhood Watch News – March 2014
Top Five Telephone and/or e-mail Scams
This information was reported in a recent edition of Radio 4’s ‘Moneybox’
At No. 5 The Foreign Currency scam - when you are persuaded that there is a lot of money to be made by trading in foreign currencies. However, if you choose to invest in such a scheme you are unlikely to see your money again.
At No.4 The Overseas Land or Property Scam – an offer to sell you a parcel of land or a property outside the UK, which is claimed to be ripe for development with huge profit potential. Again, you can wave goodbye to your money.
Joint No.3 The Diamond and Rare Earth Market Scam (the latter being used by the mobile phone industry) – all that glisters is not necessarily diamonds or Rare Earths.
Joint No.3 Fine Wines – whilst there are legitimate companies who trade in the fine wine market, there are also the unscrupulous sharks who will take your money for rubbish or non-existent wine.
At No.2 The Fake Carbon Credits Scam – Carbon credits are certificates bought by firms to offset pollution and they are traded on international markets. They are also being sold by conmen who exploit the fact that they're trendy, green - and hard to understand.
And still at No.1 The Boiler Room Scam – this involves the cold calling of investors, pressurising them to buy worthless, over-priced or even non-existent shares. Whilst they promise high returns, investors usually end up losing all their money.
Should you receive an unexpected phone call or e-mail offering you an opportunity to invest in any of the above schemes, or anything similar, be on your guard. Remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is too good to be true, so steer clear!
Neighbourhood Watch News – February 2013
Well, I hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Christmas – it seems a long time ago now doesn’t it?
Here we are at the beginning of February – a month of the New Year gone already!
It’s been said many times before, but it is still worth repeating. Statistics show that less than 10% of stolen property is ever reunited with the rightful owner, simply because there is NO way to identify who the rightful owner is! The use of appropriate property marking could be invaluable in the unfortunate event that you lose or have a valuable item stolen. There is also a free online service called ‘Immobilise’ (www.immobilise.com/) where you can register details of your valuable items. The police have access to this database which helps them return stolen property to its rightful owner.
The following information is from the Neighbourhood & Home Watch Network:
‘Are you savvy online? Perhaps not as streetwise online as you would like to be or think you are?
The National Fraud Agency has launched a new campaign - Cyber Streetwise - to help give us all some essential tips to improve our awareness online and help keep important stuff safe. You can read more about the campaign at www.cyberstreetwise.com.
We are supporting the campaign to help get us all be a bit more streetwise online. Believe it or not most of the population are not doing enough to protect themselves! This is a medium/long term campaign so you can help by raising awareness of the website and the key tips below to your members at a time convenient to you.
Adopting a few simple online behaviours can help keep you and your family safer, such as:
- Using strong, memorable passwords.
- Installing anti-virus software on new devices.
- Checking privacy settings on social media.
- Shopping safely online – always ensuring to check online retail sites are secure.
- Downloading software and the application of patches when prompted.
Do have a look at the website, www.cyberstreetwise.com.
If you use social media, they also have an account on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cyberstreetwise and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cyberstreetwise. ‘
Neighbourhood Watch News – December 2013
PARCEL DELIVERY SCAM FOILED
Readers who are registered to receive TVAlerts may have already read this, but here it is for the wider audience.
A vigilant resident foiled an attempted parcel delivery scam recently. So that you and your family and friends can be better prepared to deal with this sort of scam, here’s how it worked.
An unexpected parcel was delivered to the resident’s home by a recognised delivery service, correctly addressed to the resident by name. As there was nothing on the outside of the package to indicate its origin, the parcel had to be opened and was found to contain a mobile phone. The supplier – who was NOT the service provider – was contacted and the resident was told that an order had been placed in his name, payment being made using a credit card issued by a bank NOT used by the resident. The company would not reveal any other information. Following advice from NHWatch, the police were informed and the resident was advised by them to retain the item and NOT release it to anyone without due authority. The following day, the resident was visited by a man who claimed that a parcel had been incorrectly delivered to the resident’s address and he had come to collect it. The resident was ‘unable to assist’ the man who went away empty-handed. The resident reported this further event to the police and the phone supplier who then contacted the service provider (Orange) and the delivery company who arranged for secure collection of the item.
It appears that the fraudster was able to set up an account with Orange using the Internet and could then order the phone using the false account details, for delivery to the address of our resident. If the phone had been released to the caller, the account would have been cancelled and the phone disposed of for cash. The phone supplier and service provider would have been the ones out of pocket. It does seem inappropriate that suppliers are prepared to set up accounts over the Internet for payment by Direct Debit, without checking with the relevant bank that the account is genuine.
So, if you receive an unexpected parcel, you know what to look out for!
The Carrington Avenue scheme is currently without a member who is able to receive TVAlerts by e-mail. If you live on Carrington and would like to help them, contact myself and I will explain what is involved.
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Well, this is the last NHWatch News for 2013 – I hope that you have found my offerings over the year of interest and value. I wish you all a healthy, secure and happy Christmas and will be back in February 2014.
Neighbourhood Watch News – November 2013
End of British Summer Time
I hope that you all remembered to put the clocks back and reset all your security timers at the end of October!
On the last Thursday in October, Sergeant Matt Lloyd and myself had the pleasure of speaking at the Annual Meeting of the Evening W.I. Group. Matt is the Sergeant responsible for the Hazlemere Local Policing office, and our Neighbourhood Police Constable – PC Rowena Austin, and Community Support Officer – PCSO Daton Beckford, are the members of his team responsible for Flackwell Heath. Should you need to contact any of these officers, use the non-emergency phone number – 101 – and ask to be put through to them by name.
Matt spoke about how the police support our community and described some of the measures that residents can take to reduce their risk of becoming a ‘crime statistic’. He referred to the various initiatives being taken over the Halloween and Bonfire Night periods to reduce the likelihood of anti-social behaviour and offered ‘No Trick or Treat’ posters to the members present. I spoke about the role and value of Neighbourhood Watch, and we both endorsed the use of ‘No Cold Calling’ stickers.
What is Neighbourhood Watch all about?
With national statistics indicating that up to 85% of crime is preventable, Neighbourhood Watch (NHWatch) acts as a dedicated ‘middleman’ between the police and residents, spreading simple yet effective strategies to reduce the opportunities for common crimes and anti-social behaviour, and also to reduce the fear of crime that may blight some neighbourhoods.
There are some 1,200 voluntary Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators in the High Wycombe district, who have spent years helping keep their neighbours safe – safe from prowlers, car thieves, burglars, rogue traders, bogus callers, fraudsters, scammers and the many dodgy dealers who prey on the vulnerable and unwary in their own homes. The Wycombe District NHWatch Association is one of the most successful in the region, with around double the coverage of Reading and four times the coverage of Milton Keynes.
In Flackwell Heath, 38 of the 78 roads in the village have a NHWatch scheme covering all, or part of the road, and there are currently 58 scheme co-ordinators and deputies running these schemes. NHWatch is the largest voluntary crime-reduction initiative in the United Kingdom.
Neighbourhood Watch News – October 2013
Summer has a’been and gone….!!
Well, our summer turned out to be rather better than last year, so I hope that you all had a safe and secure time - either at home or away. By the time you read this, the evenings will be well and truly drawing in, and it will only be a few weeks until the official end of ‘Summer Time’ - even though ‘Autumn’ officially started on September 1st.
The clocks GO BACK 1 HOUR at 2 am on Sunday October 27th
As Autumn progresses and we head relentlessly towards Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas, don’t forget to review your property security. Statistics show that with the earlier evening darkness, there is an increase in the number of burglaries. Make sure that you have reset any timers controlling a radio or house lighting to reflect the increase in the hours of darkness. Anything you can do to make your house look occupied will be beneficial. And if your alarm sounded during recent power outages, your ‘back-up’ battery is probably in need of replacement.
One of the important roles of any active Neighbourhood Watch scheme, is for the members to be aware of, and keep an eye open for the more vulnerable residents in their neighbourhood, regardless of whether they have chosen to belong to the scheme or not. The elderly, especially those living on their own, are particularly at risk to the devious tricks employed by so-called ‘Rogue Traders’. If you have watched the series on TV, you will be aware of some of the dire consequences of their activities - and they are no respecters of our ‘No Doorstep Selling Zones’.
During the summer, one of our scheme coordinators was very much ‘on the ball’, and spotted some major work being done on a resident’s driveway, despite the fact that the drive had only recently been re-laid! Contact with the relatives of the elderly resident who was living on his own, confirmed that NO work should be being undertaken at the house in question. The police were involved and the work was stopped, although it appeared that money may have changed hands.
So, if you see something happening which looks unusual, unexpected or out-of-context, don’t just sit on your hands and watch; go and enquire, or phone the police. If it is genuine, no-one will be the worse off. If it turns out to be something untoward, then your action will have been justified.
NEW Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association Web-site
If you are fortunate enough to have access to the Internet, then pay a visit to:
You will find lots of useful information there, relating to home and personal security, etc.
Neighbourhood Watch News – Aug / Sept 2013
Keep your property secure
Sheds and Outbuildings
We not only use our sheds and other outbuildings to store items of considerable value such as bicycles, scooters, garden equipment eg. mowers, etc. but very often we also store tools which could be used to gain access to our main property, such as garden spades, forks, ladders, etc. It is therefore very important that we provide adequate security to such outbuildings in the way of general construction, especially doors, locks and windows; obscuring windows so that it is difficult for the opportunist to see what is inside, without limiting daylight too much. Further protection can be provided by using an alarmed padlock in combination with a hasp and staple secured by hidden bolts or clutch-style screws. A shed alarm which is triggered if the door is opened will also be a further safeguard. Any steps or ladders which could be used to gain access to an open upper window should be suitably chained and locked to prevent their removal.
Property Marking, etc.
SelectaDNA – a sophisticated chemically-coded liquid marking system which also contains microdots bearing a unique identifying code. Can be applied to a wide range of items and materials including valuable porcelain and jewellery for example. Revealed by UV light; stolen property is routinely checked by the police for such identification.
CREMark – a more robust marking system comprising a permanent marker pen in black or silver, which is protected by a spray-on lacquer making it extremely difficult to remove the marking without seriously damaging any underlying paintwork, metal, etc. Used principally for marking larger items such as bicycles, mowers, electrical tools, etc.
UV Pen – this is the commonest form of security marking but is not permanent as it fades with age depending upon the substrate and location. Should be used on the back or underside of electrical equipment such as TV, DVD, Audio, etc. as it does leave a mark visible under some conditions. Needs a UV light source to reveal.
Coded Car – a series of highly adhesive labels bearing the VIN of the vehicle are hidden in a number of places in/on your car known only to you. The car displays a ‘Warning’ sticker.
Tax Disc and Number plates – Secur-i-Disc tamper-proof tax disc holder to reduce the risk of having yours stolen. Clutch-head screws to make removal of your number plates more difficult.
The items described above can be obtained at very reasonable prices through Neighbourhood Watch.
Neighbourhood Watch News – July 2013
Here are some useful tips for when you go on holiday to ensure that on your return, you are less likely to get a nasty surprise!
1. Make your home look occupied. Recruit the help of a family member or neighbour to draw your curtains in the evening and following morning. Ask them to remove any deliveries of mail that might be visible, or use the Royal Mail ‘Keepsafe’ service. Have a radio or a suitable light eg. hall or upstairs landing on a timer switch set to come on at an appropriate time.
2. Cancel deliveries of newspapers, milk, veg. boxes etc., by phone – not in the shop! You never know who might be listening – remember ‘Walls have ears’?
3. Make sure any valuable items, especially laptops and car keys are safely out of sight.
4. Consider using a home safe for any really important documents or small valuable items.
5. Security mark valuable items so that should they be stolen, they can be identified as yours. Use SelectaDNA or CREMark for the most secure and durable marking. UV Marker pens are OK but the marks don’t last forever.
6. Check that your House & Contents Insurance is up-to-date and covers your absence.
7. Invite one of your neighbours to use your front drive if it is easily accessible.
8. Mow your lawn BEFORE you go – it makes the house look occupied and is less of a chore when you get home. If you are away for any length of time, get someone to mow it for you whilst you are away!
9. Ensure that ladders and garden tools that could be used to force an entry to your home are securely locked away.
10. Lock all doors and windows, garage and sheds before you leave.
11. Set any security alarm when you finally leave the house, and if it is a monitored alarm, don’t forget to let the monitoring company know who holds the key.
12. Finally, if you are a member of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, ask your immediate neighbours to keep an eye on your property whilst you are away. Remember, simply registering to receive TVAlerts is no substitute for a good Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
NHWatch is the most effective crime-reduction initiative in the UK.
Neighbourhood Watch News – June 2013
‘Sumer is Icumen in, loudly sing, Cuckoo……’
Did you notice that we had a couple of ‘hot’ days during early May – blink and you may have missed them! Let’s hope that June sees some real summer weather, in which case, you will need to think about your home security - again. With warm weather, come open windows, back garden BBQ’s, days out, etc. All situations which can present opportunities for the ‘ne’er do wells’ in our society to pay you a visit and relieve you of some items of value.
Although Thames Valley Police have achieved a substantial reduction in the number of burglaries during the last 12 months, significantly aided I would add, by your own measures to improve the security of your property, there is no room for complacency. At a recent meeting with the police, they reported some very disturbing facts associated with burglaries and the increasing crime of ‘Theft from motor vehicle’ (TFMV). In the case of burglaries, some of the victims admitted to leaving their keys in the front door or easily accessible in the entrance hall. I wonder what their Insurance Companies thought of this information! With TFMV, the vehicle had been left unlocked on the house driveway, in the mistaken belief that there it was safe. Don’t you believe it - the ‘ne’er do wells’ are known to operate during the hours of darkness, with the sole objective of finding an unlocked car. During daytime, large car parks are the popular target, with Tesco and the Paper Mill in Loudwater being local hunting grounds yet again.
The moral is, never, ever, leave your house or car unlocked, even if you are at home and your car is on the front drive. It only takes a moment for the opportunist thief to strike.
Can YOU be found?
In the course of delivering ’30 MPH’ wheelie bin stickers to homes on one of the main through roads in our village, I was reminded – yet again – of how difficult it can be to identify a specific house from the road. Imagine what it would be like for one of the emergency services on a cold, dark, rainy winter’s evening!! And if the house only has a name, well, they stand no chance. Here’s a suggestion. Why not purchase a set of inexpensive numbers from our local DIY merchant and screw/glue them to the wall or gatepost at the threshold to your home, so they can be easily seen?
By the way, if you would like to participate in the 30 MPH sticker campaign being spearheaded by your Neighbourhood Action Group, we have plenty of stickers available.
Neighbourhood Watch News – May 2013
Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association (WDNHWA) AGM
The AGM was held on Wednesday, April 10th and was well attended by co-ordinators, scheme members and others. Geoff Pegg, the current Chairman, opened the meeting by summarising the wide range of activities undertaken by WDNHWA during the past year, ranging from new Scheme Start-up events to major Community Safety Events. The Association now supports 1,250 Co-ordinators for 700 schemes covering approx. 25,000 households. Treasurer Doug Meredith confirmed that the Association continued to be totally self-funded with turnover up during the last year from higher sales of SelectaDNA, Padlock Alarms and Shed Alarms. The Honorary Officers were re-elected, although Geoff Pegg confirmed his intention to stand down as Chairman this year. The Committee were also re-elected en bloc, with a request for others to join the Committee, to absorb the workload previously carried largely by Geoff Pegg.
After the formalities of the AGM were complete, CI Colin Seaton, Deputy Commander for the Wycombe LPA gave a short address. He confirmed that Neighbourhood Watch was the largest, and most effective voluntary crime reduction initiative in the UK. This had helped our local police to achieve a significant reduction in the number of burglaries during 2012. Despite the financial constraints being faced by the police, they would continue to work in partnership with NHWatch and other Community Safety agencies, to build on this success for the future, including improvements to Community Messaging (TVAlerts).
Local MP Steve Baker, reinforced the message from the police in support of NHWatch, noting that in these times of austerity, it was even more important for ‘Society’ to work together as a whole to support each other, as this was essential to our general wellbeing. NHWatch was a good example of this.
Finally, David Carroll, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley spoke about the role of the PCC and of the consultation process which had raised many useful issues and comments. He hoped that the new system would lead to improved links with the community and greater focus for the police in their efforts against crime.
I know this is not really a NHWatch issue, but these ‘eyesores’ do affect our neighbourhoods! We can all help by reporting serious potholes to Bucks County Council – online at:
They do come out, check, mark and repair where appropriate.
Neighbourhood Watch News – April 2013
Reporting Fraud and Internet Crime
Fraud and Internet Crime costs the UK economy an estimated £73 Billion each year! Six years ago, the government funded the setting-up of a new co-ordinating centre for dealing with reports of fraud. Sadly, Action Fraud has not yet been effectively promoted and is not working as well as it was intended. However, should you be the victim of fraud, rather than reporting the matter to your local police, the current advice is to report it to Action Fraud - and to your bank or credit card company where appropriate. (see below for details)
The ‘Little Book of Big Scams’ was promoted by a recent TVAlert, and can be viewed/downloaded from the TVPolice web-site. There are hundreds of ways villains can find to part the unsuspecting from their hard-earned cash, but here are some of their favourite and most lucrative scams that you need to be aware of.
1. An Inheritance - a letter or e-mail from a foreign bank or legal company saying that someone with the same surname as you, possibly a long-lost relative, has died leaving you a fortune. A small fee or tax will be required to secure your inheritance – but of course, it does not exist, and you’ll not see the fee again. You’ll not see anything in your bank account either if you give them the details!
2. A variation on the above, again from abroad, asks if you would help transfer a large amount of money from the foreign country into your account in the UK before transferring it on to its rightful owner, and in return you’ll get a large reward. If you do agree and give them your bank account details, they’ll simply empty it instead of filling it with a fortune. The term ‘Money Mule’ is often used to describe the situation when someone, often a student, is asked to transfer money via their own account. This is generally a form of money laundering, and could result in the vulnerable person being barred from holding a bank account, with serious consequences in the future.
3. Investment opportunities in land, wine, or shares might be portrayed as a guaranteed, risk-free way to earn a fantastic return on your money – but these ‘deals’ are overpriced or non-existent, and as they are usually run from abroad, you’ll have no help from the Financial Services Authority when your money disappears with nothing to show.
4. Lottery and prize draw wins are always suspicious if a) you haven’t entered one and b) are asked for an administration fee before you get your winnings. You will not win anything, just lose your money, plus the fraudsters will know you are a soft touch and sell your name and address onto other fraudsters who will bombard you with similar scams.
Neighbourhood Watch News – March 2013
Selling not Begging?
Many people report that they have mixed reactions to pedlars turning up claiming to be ex-offenders trying to get their lives back on track by selling household goods door-to-door rather than begging or relying on handouts. Whilst many of these salesmen are polite, have some kind of laminated ID card and appeal to your sense of decency, some of them can be aggressive. Their goods can be overpriced, and some householders do feel intimidated or at least morally obliged to pay over the odds for stuff they don’t actually want. What should you do when one presents himself at your door? Bear in mind these points;
1. Any legitimate salesperson should take note of your door sticker saying No Cold Callers and leave you alone. If you don’t already have one of these stickers you can get one from Neighbourhood Watch free of charge.
2. No probation service in the country organises a doorstep selling scheme for the rehabilitation of offenders.
3. It does happen that door-to-door selling can be a front for distraction burglaries, where an accomplice will go around the back of the house to steal from inside whilst the householder is occupied with the salesman at the front.
4. It is entirely possible that the caller is ‘casing the joint’ and checking out your security arrangements with a view to a future burglary.
5. You should be extremely cautious about any sales person turning up without an appointment. Indeed, you should be wary about opening the door to anystranger and certainly should never buy anything, no matter how small, from an unannounced visit whether it be a new dishcloth or a new driveway.
6. Legitimate pedlars can obtain an official licence to carry on their business, but these licences are not available to anyone with a criminal conviction. Anyone can create a laminated ID card to say anything.
7. If you do open the door to one of these salesmen, politely say that you do not need anything and close the door. You do not need to justify your refusal. Telephone the police on the non-emergency 101 number for them to keep an eye on these possible gangs of criminals.
Prepared by Selina Jackson – WDNHWA Publicity Officer
Neighbourhood Watch News – December 2012 / January 2013
The cuts continue to bite
Financial constraints being imposed by central government on their various departments - including local government and the police - continue to affect us all. The Home Office is no longer producing many of the leaflets relating to home and personal safety, made available to Neighbourhood Watch in the past. Similarly, the police are no longer able to provide us support in the form of printing, postage, etc. So we are very much on our own, and it was a pleasant surprise to see a couple of new items appear.
‘A Guide to avoid becoming a Victim of Burglary’
This leaflet is produced by Wycombe District Council’s Community Safety Team, and identifies the Top 10 measures that can be taken to protect your home. These range from the use of an intruder alarm which is a good deterrent, to the planting of prickly hedges around your garden perimeter, eg. pyracantha, holly, roses, etc. Inside your home, ensure that valuable property is security marked, keep valuable items out of sight – especially important as Christmas approaches; don’t leave keys accessible and make your house look ‘lived in’, even when you are out. Many inexpensive security items were available from Neighbourhood Watch at the recent Crime Prevention event in the Chiltern Shopping Centre.
‘Buying on the doorstep’
This leaflet is produced by the Office of Fair Trading, and is designed to explain your rights and protect you and those you care about from rogue doorstep traders. The various sections define ‘doorstep selling’, identify those who are particularly at risk (especially elderly homeowners on their own), and describe some of the common sales tactics employed. The leaflet also offers some useful tips on how best to handle the various sales approaches and how to recognise reputable traders. As a general rule, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be prepared to double check the facts BEFORE you commit yourself to a purchase and ensure that you understand the total cost of the transaction; what your contractual rights are (eg. cancellation) and what guarantees or warranties are available. Reputable direct traders will often be members of the Direct Selling Association dsa.org.uk (OFT Approved) or a Trade Association. Look out for the government-supported TrustMark, or a Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme. Whilst many of us support the concept of No Doorstep Selling or Cold-calling, the rogues will always try to catch us off guard.
* * *
Finally, may I wish you all a safe and very happy Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.
Neighbourhood Watch News – Aug / Sept 2012
Operation ‘Tornado’ – theft of metal
Recently, Police Forces in the South East introduced a new scheme named Operation Tornado. This will make it easier to trace any person who sells metal to Scrap Metal Merchants and will help to remove and prosecute dealers of stolen metal. Crimestoppers will be working throughout the year to further enhance and support this initiative.
Theft of metal is now one of the fastest rising crimes, with costs to the UK economy estimated at £770m each year. Heavily influenced by commodity prices and the growing economies of both developing and developed countries, it affects communities, industry and commerce and poses a real and significant threat to public safety and critical national infrastructure. It is an international problem and whilst metal prices remain high and global demand continues to rise, this crime is big business and an issue that will not disappear on its own.
Detective Inspector Ian Wood, the Thames Valley Police lead for Operation Tornado remarked: “As a Force we are committed to reducing metal theft in Thames Valley. Operation Tornado aims to target unscrupulous dealers rather than inhibit legitimate businesses. However we still need intelligence from the public to tackle this crime from all angles and the Crimestoppers anonymous service provides a valuable tool to enable communities to provide information safely and free from fear.”
If you see anything suspicious that looks like metal theft, ring the police on 101 or call Crimestoppers. (see below)
At the recent Godstowe School Area NHWatch meeting, Peter Major - Bucks Fire & Rescue Service - gave a very useful presentation, and I pass on his key points:
Over the last 20 years there has been a significant reduction in the number of house fires attributable to more safety rules, better inspection, better fire retardant furnishings and furniture, fewer people smoking, etc.
Smoke detectors have made a significant contribution to fire safety.
Most night-time fires are due to electrical faults. Do not leave high power domestic items such as washing machines, tumble driers, dish washers running when the house is unoccupied or at night-time. Switch off and unplug small appliances such as phone chargers, when not in use.
Check the wiring to portable electrical items at intervals. These are the ones most at risk due to frequent unplugging to move them around.
Close doors at night. The average internal door will resist fire for about 20 minutes.
Everyone in your house should know how to LEAVE the house in the event of a fire alarm. Have YOU got an ‘Escape Plan’? Have a torch and telephone accessible.
Parking in residential areas is a major issue, restricting access for fire tenders
In the event of a fire alarm, Get Out, Stay Out and call the Fire Brigade.
Neighbourhood Watch News – June 2012
In anticipation of some relief from the ‘deluge’ that we have been experiencing since the imposition of ‘The Hosepipe Ban’, let’s hope that we can look forward to some sunny days and balmy evenings, when the BBQ’s can be pulled out of winter storage! The security points listed below apply especially to those times when we are enjoying the summer in our back gardens. Have we left the front of the house insecure? It only takes a moment for the passing opportunist burglar to nip in through the unlocked front door and grab anything of value – including the keys to your house and car! The hassle resulting from this sort of theft is considerable.
- Close and lock all ground floor doors and windows and don’t leave items of value on display
- Close and lock any vulnerable upper floor windows, and lock/bolt any side access.
- Make sure any external buildings such as sheds and garages are secure.
- Keep ladders under lock and key or security chained.
- Remove any property from vehicles parked on your drive, close windows and lock car.
‘Thames Valley Alert’
After considerable pressure from established users of the old Community Messaging/Ringmaster systems, including questions raised at the recent AGM of Wycombe District NHWatch Association, ‘local’ crime information messages have been re-instated and are once more being sent out via the new ‘TV Alert’ system. There are still some ‘bugs’ associated with the implementation of the new messaging process, and the police would welcome ‘feedback’ on the quality of messages received.
Neighbourhood Watch News – May 2012
Goodbye ‘Community Messaging/Ringmaster’ – Hello ‘Thames Valley Alert’
The change has finally been implemented, and Thames Valley Police (TVP) are now using the same system as the Home Office supported ‘Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network’ tailored to meet TVP’s particular needs. Everyone who was previously registered to receive Community Messaging or Ringmaster should by now have received a ‘Welcome’ e-mail directing them to this new and improved service. Existing recipients of Community Messaging will continue to receive news and information relevant to where they live and work. However, they will also have the opportunity to enhance the type of service they receive by selecting the message types and information of particular interest to them. As well as keeping residents up to date, TVP want to be able to ask our opinions on policing and what they can change to make their services more effective for when we do need them. The system also provides a range of online scheme management tools to assist users to see their local scheme and find new members. The new service can be found at:
where existing users can sign-in using the User Name and Password included in the Welcome e-mail. If you are interested in participating, you can also apply to join the network.
NEW Crime Prevention website launched
Retired Metropolitan Police Officer - Calvin Beckford - a crime prevention specialist and author, has recently launched a new web-site claiming to provide the largest and most comprehensive online resource for free Crime Prevention and Home Security advice. There are specific sections on Home Security, Vehicles & Bikes and Personal Security, as well as an intriguing section on Problem Solving.
One particularly useful feature is an online ‘Home Security Survey’ which will assess your current level of security and suggest areas where you can improve matters. The site can be found at:
If you are interested in the broader aspects of crime prevention, you might also like to visit the Crime Reduction Partnership web-site at:
Finally, have YOU adjusted to Summertime (BST)?
A belated reminder that you need to adjust any security timers that you may use, to reflect the change to BST. Many modern electronic timers have a simple process for making the change to BST in the Spring and back to GMT in the Autumn – often referred to as adjusting for Daylight Saving Time (DST)!
Neighbourhood Watch News – April 2012
Some good news for a change! I am advised that Community Messaging by telephone was re-instated in March having been discontinued for several months. If you normally receive Community Messaging (Ringmaster for NHWatch) and you are NOT getting any messages, let me know and I will take it up in the appropriate quarter. However, I understand that further changes to Community Messaging will be announced in April – watch this space!
As an addition to Community Messaging, those of you who are familiar with the social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, may like to visit the following sites:
Thames Valley Police on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/thamesvp
High Wycombe Police on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/tvp_wycombe
High Wycombe Community Safety on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/wycombedcbesafe
One definition of 'Bilking' is when a customer leaves without paying for goods or services. This crime can be committed against restaurants, service stations, taxi drivers or in a number of other situations. This undesirable activity has received considerable media attention in the Thames Valley area of late. Car number-plate theft is frequently associated with petrol forecourt bilking, to mislead CCTV recordings as to the identity of the vehicle involved. Number-plate theft can be made more difficult by replacing the normal securing screws with ‘clutch-head’ screws which are easy to fit, but difficult to remove. If your number plates are stolen, report it to the police immediately on 101
TEXT MESSAGE SCAMS
You need to be very suspicious of any unsolicited text message that claims that you have won money or a prize in some form of lottery or promotion that you have never even entered. Be wary of any message in any format that claims that your name, phone number or e-mail address has been randomly selected as the winner of a substantial prize. Genuine lotteries do not operate in this manner. If you receive such a scam message, do not reply or respond to the scammers in any way – just DELETE it.
The UK Cards Association is advising customers to be aware of a new variation on an old style scam that involves people being telephoned by fraudsters and duped into handing over their debit or credit card, and revealing their PIN. Collection of the ‘compromised card’ by courier is often part of the plausible story. Remember - your bank, card provider or the police will NEVER ring you and tell you that they are coming to your home to pick up your card.
For further information about Neighbourhood Watch, contact:
David Gresswell – Area Co-ordinator, Flackwell Heath
(Tel: 525019 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Police General & Non-emergency number: NEW UK number 101
Crimestoppers (Anonymous): 0800 555 111
Trading Standards (Consumer Direct): 0845 4 04 05 06
Neighbourhood Watch News – March 2012
THEFT FROM MOTOR VEHICLES (TFMV)
Operation ‘Get the Message’ is being conducted by our Neighbourhood Police Team in an attempt to combat the significant increase in TFMV crime that our area has been experiencing. Too many vehicles are being left unlocked and/or with items of ‘apparent’ value left on display inside. These are open invitations to the opportunist thief. The police are encouraging us all to ‘Get the message’ that ‘If you leave property on show, then expect it to go!’ They are distributing a leaflet which lists a number of simple ways to protect our vehicles and belongings:
- ‘Click & check’ – trust locks not luck – double check that your vehicle is secure.
- Keep vehicle keys safe and out of sight.
- Perfect parking – if you have a garage, use it – or try to park in a well-lit location.
- Display and you will pay – don’t tempt thieves – take your belongings indoors.
- Be alarmed – this could deter thieves.
- Sat Nav – would YOU be lost without it? Remove it and any tell-tale traces from your car.
- Your number’s up – number plates can be easily removed, use security screws. Contact the police if yours are stolen.
UNSOLICITED PHONE CALLS
Here’s a tip from a local resident for dealing with those unwanted telephone calls – often initiated by automated dialling. – offering to ‘fix’ your computer, etc. If you answer the phone and actually speak to a human being, even if being called from a distance, ask the caller to ‘hold the line for a moment’, then put the phone down and carry on doing whatever you were doing before the call. You will eventually hear your phone sounding to indicate that the connection has been broken and you can then hang up. Alternatively, engage the caller in conversation WITHOUT answering any of their questions. The caller will soon get fed up and hang up – you have wasted their time rather than yours, and it hasn’t cost you anything. If we all do this, maybe ‘they’ will get the message!
It is a well-known fact, that less than 10% of stolen property recovered by the police is ever re-united with the rightful owner, because there is NO way of identifying who the owner is! If you received valuable gifts for Christmas, have YOU made sure that you can identify your property should it be stolen? Make a list of items of value with description, Serial Number and any other unique identification. Use a security marking system or take a photo of small, high value items such as jewellery. Register your property for free on www.Immobilise.com
Neighbourhood Watch News – February 2012
Residents who receive Ringmaster messages via Neighbourhood Watch, or who participate in Community Messaging, may have noticed that there has been a significant reduction in the number of messages over the last 2-3 months? This is the direct consequence of cost savings being required of TVP and the manner in which the Wycombe LPA are implementing these savings. It has meant the loss of a dedicated NHWatch Administrator with his role being spread across 2 or 3 other police staff, necessitating the training of these individuals - which is ongoing - and a backlog of administrative tasks has accumulated. Hopefully, ‘normal service will be resumed as soon as possible’
UNSOLICITED PHONE CALLS
Here’s a tip from a local resident for dealing with those unwanted telephone calls – often initiated by automated dialling. – offering to ‘fix’ your computer, etc. If you answer the phone and actually speak to a human being, even if being called from a distance, ask the caller to ‘hold the line for a moment, then put the phone down and carry on doing whatever you were doing before the call. Eventually the caller will get fed up and hang up – you have wasted his time rather than yours, and it hasn’t cost you anything. You will eventually hear your phone sounding to indicate that the connection has been broken and you can then hang up. If we all do this, maybe ‘they’ will get the message!
THEFT OF METAL
Metal theft is a serious and growing national problem which the Government is determined to tackle. We are seeing a range of sectors affected: from national infrastructure including power, transport and communication networks, to impact on communities, for example the theft and damage to church roofs, heritage buildings and stealing road signs, drain covers and even war memorials. This is a matter for everybody in the community. We all need to be alert to the situation and keep watch for vans and trucks prowling around our streets looking for the opportunity to steal metal – even from your skip without your permission! - and reporting the details to the local police (Dial 101) or Crimestoppers (0800 555 111). No item of intelligence is ever too small; it might be the final piece of the jigsaw and in some cases there might even be the possibility of gaining a reward.
Neighbourhood Watch News – November 2011
Police Non-emergency number – it’s changing!
By the time you read this, the Thames Valley Police area (along with many others) will be about to – or will have implemented the NEW non-emergency number – 101 – which will be adopted by every police force in England by early 2012. 101 will eventually replace the current 0845 8 505 505 in our area but it is expected that the two numbers will run alongside each other for several months. This change is a Home Office initiative, and was carefully trialled in 2006 before the roll-out programme began, and is intended to make the police more accessible to the public throughout England and Wales.
More information about this change can be found at:
Make a note of this NEW number – or use a marker pen to change any existing fridge magnets!
Theft of and from motor vehicles, including number plate theft.
This type of crime continues to be a problem in our area, and now extends to theft of wheels and catalytic converters – for their scrap metal value. It is quite surprising just how many car owners leave their vehicles unlocked on their front drive, in the mistaken belief that their precious vehicle will be safe there! Far from it – the thieves are now checking car doors to find those that are unlocked. Never – ever – leave your car unlocked whilst away from it, and never leave anything of value – or of apparent value in your car. If you see anyone loitering close to a parked vehicle, keep an eye open for any activity that looks suspicious. Make a note of any description of the person(s) involved. It won’t do any harm to ring the non-emergency number, but if it is obvious that a crime is about to be committed, dial 999
Regarding wheels and number plates, the use of security wheel nuts and tamper-resistant number plate screws will make their removal more difficult for the thieves.
End of British Summer Time
Although the description ‘summer time’ may have sounded rather bleak this year, October 29th will have seen the return to good old Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the harbinger of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas! Make sure that you have reset all your timer lights, etc. to reflect the earlier hours of darkness, and why not carry out your own ‘Winter Security Audit’ of your property. If you are in a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, get together with other members to review any security issues in your road: for example, are all the street lights working properly? Do any trees need to be cut back to improve illumination?
Neighbourhood Watch News – October 2011
Flackwell Heath has seen an increase in the number of burglaries during the ‘summer’ months, as have many surrounding areas. Quite commonly, access to a property is gained via an insecure rear door or window, but on occasions the break-in is quite blatant, with a glass window being smashed. In general, ‘a tidy search’ is carried out, so that it is not immediately apparent that you have been burgled! The items being taken are small, high value disposable items such as laptops, mobile phones, games consoles, jewellery and cash. Keys are also a ‘popular’ target with the objective of stealing a car, or making a repeat visit to the property. How about checking your own security? And what about property marking? Only a very small proportion of recovered property is ever reunited with the rightful owner, as it cannot be identified. There are various marking options available, choice being determined by the nature and value of the item being marked. Anything that you can do to make life difficult for the opportunist burglar will be of benefit. The cost and inconvenience of having to replace stolen goods or have new locks fitted can be significant, and is not always covered by insurance.
Residents continue to receive calls from people claiming to represent BT or Microsoft, or the like. The BT scam attempts to persuade the recipient to pay money to ‘renew their line contract’, threatening to cut them off if money is not paid. This they ‘demonstrate’ – in fact, all they do is use the Mute button on their phone and the recipient’s line appears to have gone dead. The ‘Microsoft’ scam claims that the recipient’s computer has a major problem which the caller can resolve. Their objective is to download malware onto the computer for various nefarious purposes. Should you receive such a call, just put the phone down! Many modern phones have small screens which will display the incoming call details, provided that your phone package includes the ‘Calling Line Identity (CLI)’ service. This enables you to check the number BEFORE answering the call. If it is a number you don’t recognise then you can choose to ignore it.
NEW Neighbourhood Watch Schemes
In addition to the new scheme in Green Dragon Lane which complements the existing scheme in Northern Woods, there is now a further scheme for the village centre end of Heath End Road, and plans are afoot for a scheme in Bracken Way. Attempts to start schemes in some other roads in the village have been thwarted by the lack of anyone coming forward to act as co-ordinator. This is a not uncommon problem facing voluntary organisations these days – the lack of volunteers to help run the voluntary organisation! However, Neighbourhood Watch continues as the largest, voluntary crime-reduction activity in England.
Neighbourhood Watch News – Aug/Sept 2011
Identity theft – a salutary lesson!
It is not unknown for the devious fraudster to use someone else’s address when completing paperwork for a product or service that has already been provided, and for which an ‘invoice for payment’ will be required. A local resident contacted me recently, saying that they were receiving correspondence at their address for someone who had never lived there! Despite several letters being returned to the sender marked ‘Not known at this address’, a claim for owed money was hand-delivered, presumably by an agent of the debt-collection company! Apart from reporting this activity to the police – in case it was part of a wider problem - I suggested that the resident also contacted Trading Standards (see below), who gave them the telephone number of the Information Commission Office (ICO) – 01625-545745. The ICO were very helpful and advised the resident to write a letter to the offending company, sending it by registered post, requesting that their address be removed from the company’s database. Apparently, failure to update this database would be in breach of the Data Protection Act. The resident was also advised to check their credit record with one of the reputable organisations, such as Equifax or Experian, to ensure that the fraudulent use of their address had not had an adverse effect on their credit record. Follow this advice if you find yourself in a similar situation!
Burglary and Theft From Motor Vehicles (TFMV)
This type of crime continues to feature in our village, when the opportunist thief will spot an open window or door, or see something of potential value in a parked vehicle. Now that summer has arrived (?) there is an increased likelihood of windows or doors being left insecure whilst we enjoy the relaxation of our gardens with BBQ’s, etc. Don’t create opportunities by forgetting to secure windows, doors and side gates when you leave the house, not just when you go on holiday, but when you ‘pop out’ to do some shopping. Likewise, don’t leave anything of value – visible or otherwise - in your car, and don’t forget to lock it – even when parked on your own drive!
Neighbourhood Watch and the NAG on the Web
For those of you who enjoy a bit of ‘surfing’, check out the Flackwell Heath Village Web-site at www.flackwellheath.net. From the NHWatch page under the ‘Community’ tab, you can follow the link to the new National NHWatch web-site and access back numbers of the various items published in ‘The Grapevine’. In addition, the Newsletter published regularly by the Wycombe Community Safety Partnership can be found here.
Information relating to the activities of the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) can also be accessed from the Community tab on the ‘Home’ page of the village web-site, and the Newsletter published by the Hazlemere Neighbourhood Policing Team (HNPT) can be found here.
Neighbourhood Watch News – July 2011
The cuts start to bite – continued!
At the AGM for Wycombe District NHWatch Association held on May 18th, Chief Inspector Colin Seaton explained how the financial constraints being applied to the police are likely to affect Neighbourhood Watch. There will be changes to the Watch Administration and this will almost certainly result in a reduced level of service for a number of months. However, the police are very anxious to extend the coverage of Community Messaging to the 75% of households who do not currently benefit from the Ringmaster system. At a recent meeting with CI Seaton and the recently appointed TVPolice Communications professional – Claire Gourlay – all the various forms of media including the ‘social media’ such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. were discussed as potential additional forms of communication. If YOU have any thought on this, please let me know! In the meantime, visit:
However, it must not be forgotten that many Neighbourhood Watch members are not avid users of ‘modern technology’ and are therefore unlikely to subscribe to Facebook, Twitter, etc., yet it is this section of the community the Neighbourhood Watch schemes attempt to support. Watch this space!
Don’t hesitate – ring the police!
During the last few weeks, I have been made aware of a number of situations when residents saw ‘something’ they thought looked ‘suspicious’, and I was asked ‘What should I do?’ There is one simple answer – if you see something that looks out of the ordinary, and you think it could be ‘suspicious’, pick up the phone and dial the police non-emergency number:
0845 8 505 505
Not only will your information be of value to the police database, but if there is a police vehicle in the vicinity, it can be immediately tasked to attend the scene. This certainly happened in my case, when I reported a ‘cold caller’ operating in a ‘No Doorstep Selling Zone’ offering a possible ‘Government Grant’ for home insulation. Two PCSO’s were on my doorstep within a matter of minutes. Now I can’t guarantee that this will happen every time, but one thing is for certain, if the police don’t know about it, they certainly can’t do anything about it.
Should you witness a crime in progress – or about to be committed – don’t hesitate: DIAL 999
CCTV IN THE DSTRICT
I recently had an opportunity to visit the CCTV Control Centre in High Wycombe, and was very impressed by the improvements that have been made to the system with the advent of high resolution, digital cameras and displays. Wycombe now has over 220 cameras across the patch which includes Beaconsfield, Marlow and Princes Risborough. Some people look upon CCTV as ‘Big Brother’ and feel they are being ‘watched’ all the time, but far from it. Yes, they may be ‘on camera’ and displayed on one of the 14 multi-screen displays with digital recorders, but the operators can only monitor individuals if they suspect criminal activity or if there is welfare concern. The operators have to comply with the Data Protection Act as well as the Human Rights Acts and their activity is audited on a regular basis. True, cameras may be specifically located to ‘observe’ vulnerable areas such as car parks, etc. but they are primarily used to ensure public safety and to assist police and security officers on the ground. The ‘full functions’ cameras can monitor a crime in progress, or potential criminal activity and the police can be alerted to catch the offender(s) in the act. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) is also used to assist the staff in the search for wanted or stolen motor vehicles. There is no doubt that CCTV is a valuable asset for us all in the crime reduction arena as well as making areas safer and more welcoming.
Neighbourhood Watch News – June 2011
The cuts start to bite
At the AGM for Wycombe District NHWatch Association held on May 18th, Chief Inspector Colin Seaton explained how the financial constraints being applied to the police will affect Neighbourhood Watch. It seems likely that there will be changes to the Watch Administration and this could result in a reduced level of service for a number of months. It is therefore even more important for us all to work together under these circumstances and to encourage our neighbours to actively participate in Neighbourhood Watch. (More information in the July issue). Recent recruitment undertaken by our Neighbourhood Police Team has targeted Chapman Lane and Green Dragon Lane, and it is hoped to set up several new schemes.
According to Trading Standards, the introduction of ‘No Doorstep Selling Zones’ across Buckinghamshire has resulted in a significant decline in the number of cold callers, and in distraction burglaries often associated with this activity. Nevertheless, we are all encouraged to be on our guard against the unscrupulous rogues who ignore our signs and who will try to separate us from our hard-earned cash. Sadly, they often prey on the vulnerable elderly, and there are reports of large sums of money being handed over to pay for unnecessary roofing or driveway work, generally at highly inflated prices. If you have elderly relatives, especially those on their own, watch out for any signs that they might be being ‘conned’.
Property Marking – return of stolen goods.
Only a tiny proportion of stolen goods are ever reunited with their rightful owner, as the police are unable to prove ownership. It is essential that items of value are identifiable, either by recording a description with serial numbers and ideally a photograph, or by appropriate ‘property marking’. There are several methods of property marking, ranging from the simple use of a UV marker pen (of limited durability), through durable, resistant markings (CRE Products) to microdot systems (Alphadot) and chemically ‘coded’ liquid markers (SelectaDNA) You will see signs relating to the latter system erected around areas where it is in use – a further deterrent to the would-be thief.
Neighbourhood Watch News – May 2011
We’re all going on a summer holiday!
As summer approaches, we all start to look forward to the holiday we have been planning, but we must ensure that we leave our property secure. Many of us have neighbours who will keep an eye on our homes whilst we are away, and this is what Neighbourhood Watch encourages – setting up groups of neighbours who are prepared to look out for each other and share information on security. House and contents insurance is essential in the event that we do suffer a loss so make sure yours is up-to-date! Many insurers will offer a discount to members of a registered Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
How secure are our borders?
No, I’m not talking about our national borders, but the boundaries to our own properties. With the current incidence of burglary, anything that we can do to make life more difficult for the opportunist burglar will help. Security ‘experts’ often refer to the ‘Onion Concept’ when talking about security, and describe our various levels of security as being like the layers of an onion. The outer layer is our village – is it more or less prone to crime? The next layer is the part of the village we live in; the next the road. Do we live in a cul-de-sac or on a main road? The latter are often more at risk as there is an easier escape route. Then, our own property boundaries. Are our hedges and fences in good order? Do they present an obstacle to intruders? Do our vulnerable hedges use deterrent plantings of pyracantha, holly, hawthorn and the like? We can no longer put broken glass or barbed wire on our walls and fences, but we can use hard plastic spiked Prikkastrip – although a ‘Warning’ notice must be displayed! Then, our house and outbuildings. Are all the doors and windows fitted with adequate locks, security stays, etc. The majority of insurance companies require either Yale-type or 5-lever mortice deadlocks to be fitted to external doors. Finally, our property. Are items of value security marked and are portable items such as bikes, motor mowers, power tools, etc. kept under lock and key? Check your own onion!
Number plate theft
Theft of vehicle number plates is still an issue, as this is a way in which criminals can ‘clone’ a taxed and insured vehicle for the purposes of committing a crime, even if that ‘crime’ is just avoiding the congestion charge in London! The typical number plate is secured to the vehicle by two easily-removed screws or is simply stuck on, and can be removed in a moment. In collaboration with the Wycombe Community Safety Partnership, Halfords, the well-known car accessory retailer, recently ran events at Tesco and ASDA to fit security/tamper-proof number plate screws. If you were unable to participate in this promotion, you can still obtain suitable security screws from Screwfix. Hopefully, car manufacturers will be looking at more secure ways of attaching number plates for the future. One option is to make them in such a way that they shatter when being removed!
Neighbourhood Watch News – April 2011
The last couple of months have seen an increase in the number of local burglaries, and this should be a reminder to us all to check our own security. The majority of burglaries are ‘opportunistic’ – the villain sees an opportunity such as an open gate, insecure window, item in a car – and strikes. Make sure you don’t become another crime statistic by taking some simple precautions to reduce the risk.
Action Fraud (http://www.actionfraud.org.uk)
To combat the increasing incidence of fraud initiated by telephone, e-mail or mail, a new national fraud reporting centre has been set up. Their top-10 tips to combat fraud are:
- Do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organizations or people before verifying their credentials.
- Many frauds start with an email. Remember that banks and financial institutions will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. Do not trust such emails, even if they look genuine. You can always call your bank using the phone number on a genuine piece of correspondence, website (typed directly into the address bar) or the phone book to check if you’re not sure.
- Destroy and preferably shred receipts with your card details on and post with your name and address on. Identity fraudsters don’t need much information in order to be able to clone your identity.
- Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security notification and monitoring.
- Sign-up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code whenever you are given the option while shopping online. This involves you registering a password with your card company and adds an additional layer of security to online transactions with signed-up retailers.
- If you receive bills, invoices or receipts for things you haven’t bought, or financial institutions you don’t normally deal with contact you about outstanding debts, take action. Your identity may have been stolen.
- You should regularly get a copy of your credit file and check it for entries you don’t recognise. Callcredit, Equifax and Experian can all provide your credit file.
- Be extremely wary of post, phone calls or emails offering you business deals out of the blue. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always question it.
- If you have been a victim of fraud, be aware of fraud recovery fraud. This is when fraudsters pretend to be a lawyer or a law enforcement officer and tell you they can help you recover the money you’ve already lost.
- If you need advice about fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to discuss your situation with one of their specialist fraud advisers. To report a fraud, you can either use their online fraud reporting form or make your report by calling 0300 123 2040.
TV Police ‘Your Neighbourhood’ information (http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/)
This link will allow you to enter your Post Code in the ‘Postcode Search’ box on the right of the page. Once entered, click on ‘SHOW’, and you will be taken to the page which will give details of your local Neighbourhood Team, your local priorities, issues being tackled by the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) - made up of local residents and partner organisations, together with links to Neighbourhood updates, upcoming Neighbourhood meetings and Crime Statistics. The Neighbourhood updates are produced on a monthly basis by your local Neighbourhood officers and give an overview of recent events, and Police related matters they have been involved with.
From the link you will also be able to access other areas of the Thames Valley Police website.
Neighbourhood Watch News – March 2011
This is a common practice when someone knocks on your front door and tries to part you from your hard earned money for something you neither need nor want! These cold callers – or ‘Nottingham Knockers’ as they are widely known, target in particular the elderly who may be living on their own, so this is a singularly undesirable activity. Bucks County Council Trading Standards are very much aware of this practice and have implemented the ‘No Doorstep Selling Zone’ scheme, whereby individual residents can display a sign by their front door indicating that they do NOT want any cold callers. A group of neighbours who are in a Watch scheme, can also erect street signs designating
their area as a ‘No Doorstep Selling Zone’ (NDSZ). You will see these signs displayed in conjunction with Neighbourhood Watch signs in many roads in our village. Whilst NDSZ’s are an effective deterrent to the more socially responsible cold callers – without restricting the legitimate activities of Avon, Betterware, etc. – they will never stop the more determined doorstep sellers, even though they are all
required by law to have either a ‘Pedlar’s Certificate’ (issued by the police) or a ‘Street Traders Licence’ issued by Wycombe DC. Recently, we had a call from a well-dressed, middle-aged man trying to sell us an aerial photo of our home. He claimed to be a pilot and to have been doing some aerial surveying and offered us this rather ‘average’ photo for £35. When we declined his offer, the price rapidly fell to £15. He showed a wodge of money and claimed to have sold several in the road already, mentioning a name that we know does not exist! He was very persistent but eventually left. The latest front door sign makes it quite clear that the caller is committing a criminal offence if he/she does not leave when asked to. So, if you haven’t got one of the latest stickers (see right) ask your Watch Co-ordinator to obtain one for you.
Have you ever received an unexpected call from someone claiming to represent your bank, credit card company, Microsoft or the like? Be warned, these calls are more often than not ‘phishing’ – an attempt to obtain privileged and private information about you, or to persuade you to ‘download a security patch’ onto your computer which could well turn out to be a ‘Trojan’. Should you receive such a call, treat it with great caution, and if in doubt, terminate the call and hang up. If you think that the call may be genuine, get the callers name and details of their call, and then phone the organisation back on a number that YOU know is genuine eg. from a bank/card statement, etc. They will not be offended by such a security-conscious action.
PHONEY BT CALL – excuse the pun!
Should you receive a call from a phone provider – such as BT – claiming that you are in arrears with your telephone bill – even if you are not a BT subscriber - and threatening to cut you off if you don’t pay immediately by credit or debit card, just hang up! The caller may even appear to be able to cut you off at the time, but all he/she does is press the ‘Mute’ button on their phone – you are then unable to make any outgoing calls until the incoming call has been disconnected. Report any such call to Trading Standards using the number below. For more information on this, and many other scams, visit the following web-site:
Neighbourhood Watch News – February 2011
The ‘BIG SOCIETY’
Neighbourhood Watch is the largest single UK voluntary organisation whose main objectives are to help reduce crime and the fear of crime, and is thus ideally placed to participate in the Government’s ‘Big Society’. The financial constraints that are going to affect us all during the next few years will no doubt have an impact on policing, which will make Neighbourhood Watch even more valuable. In the Wycombe Local Policing Area (LPA), there has been a substantial growth in Neighbourhood Watch during the last five years, with a further 225 schemes being started and more than 300 new scheme co-ordinators being recruited. This growth has been achieved by volunteer residents, aided by their Area Co-ordinators and with the tireless support of Geoff Pegg, the Chairman of WDNHWA. There are now 660 registered schemes with over 1,200 co-ordinators. Talk to anyone in an active Neighbourhood Watch scheme, and they will confirm the benefits – both practical and social – of belonging to a scheme. You may even get a reduction in your household insurance! Why not start a scheme in your road if one doesn’t already exist?
At the meeting of the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) on January 13th, anti-social behaviour – vandalism, graffiti, litter, etc. - in an area around a footpath just west of the village centre was discussed at length. Whilst local residents support the closure of the footpath, the legal situation regarding footpath closure is extremely tortuous, and could itself have a detrimental effect on the area. The NAG has been tasked to ascertain the legal status of the footpath concerned, with a view to finding an alternative, more workable solution that meets residents’ needs.
THEFT OF METAL
With the demand for scrap metal still being high, theft of metal items is still significant. Quite often, thefts are carried out during daylight hours by teams of men, often with two vehicles. The first vehicle prowls around the neighbourhood looking for likely and vulnerable items. The second vehicle is then called in to do the ‘snatch’. Only recently, a copper hot water cylinder was taken without permission from outside a neighbour’s house, and a road drain cover was removed creating a safety hazard. [A call to Bucks CC ‘Highways on Call’ (Tel: 0845 230 2882) quickly got the latter marked with safety cones.] If you see a ‘suspicious’ vehicle prowling around your road, don’t just ignore it. Try and get the registration number and a description and report it, using the police non-emergency number. If there is a patrol car in the area it can be tasked to investigate.
WYCOMBE COMMUNITY SAFETY PARTNERSHIP
This partnership brings together a wide range of agencies who have an interest in making the Wycombe area a safer place to place. A useful booklet detailing the agencies involved and their main activities can be obtained from WDC, the police or Neighbourhood Watch.
Neighbourhood Watch News – December 2010
DON’T IGNORE IT – REPORT IT!
How many times have you heard it said – ‘There’s no point reporting it to the police – they never do anything about it’? Well one thing is for sure – if the police don’t know about it, they can’t do anything about it. We are all aware that police resources are stretched, particularly in the large Thames Valley policing area, and things won’t get any better in the current financial climate. But given the right information in a timely manner, the police will respond if at all possible. However, they do rely on us – the local community – to provide the information to help them fight crime on our behalf. Phone them on 08545 8 505 505 to pass on any information or use the anonymous Crimestoppers number 0800 555 111
Anti-social behaviour (ASB), and especially that accompanied by criminal damage, is one of the main problems affecting our local community – and YOU told us this. That is why the Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG) has it as Top Priority on the current agenda. Working with the police and other community support services, the NAG is targeting those areas where ASB is a problem. To help in this aim, Wycombe District Council – ASB Office, have produced an ‘ASB Incident Diary Log’ where those affected by ASB can record Day/Date/Time, What happened, What you did, How it affected you. This information is of great value in helping to tackle this problem.
If you are being affected by anti-social behaviour, you can obtain an Incident Diary Log from me; from FREEPOST HY120, Wycombe District Council, Community Safety 48, High Wycombe, HP11 1BB or download one by following the link:
There is also an Information Sheet available to help you complete the Log.
TOP 10 SECURITY TIPS
Residents who are already members of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme will have recognised last month’s ‘Top 10’ as originating in a ‘Ringmaster’ message from the Wycombe Community Safety Partnership in October. The information was also distributed via Community Messaging, but for everyone’s benefit, it was worth reiterating the points. ‘Ringmaster’ Messaging is one of the key benefits of belonging to a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. If you would like to take advantage of this information, why not join any existing scheme in your part of the road – or start a scheme of your own?
CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR
May I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas, and all the best for 2011. The next issue of Neighbourhood Watch News will appear in the first Grapevine for 2011, in February.
Neighbourhood Watch News – November 2010
TOP 10 SECURITY TIPS
Residents who are already members of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme will have received via their Scheme Co-ordinator, a ‘Ringmaster’ message from the Wycombe Community Safety Partnership, listing the Top 10 security points to be considered this Autumn. This information has also been distributed via Community Watch. For everyone’s benefit, it is worth reiterating these tips:
- Use timer switches to turn lights and radio on at dusk to make your house ‘look’ occupied.
- Install a courtesy light(s) by your front door so you can see callers at night, and PIR-controlled lights to illuminate vulnerable areas, such as the side/rear of your home.
- Ensure that all external doors are fitted with locks of appropriate quality – a 5-lever mortice lock should ideally supplement standard rim locks (Yale-type) if your door does not have integrated locks. Ensure that doors are locked at night and the key removed.
- Install a door chain or bar which allows you to open your front door sufficiently wide to see who is calling, but which prevents the door being pushed open. This is particularly important if you live on your own.
- Identify your valuable property using one of the proprietary security marking systems – take a photograph of unique items of value. The majority of stolen goods recovered by the police are never returned to the rightful owner, as they cannot be identified!
- Don’t leave items of value in a position that allows them to be easily seen from the public thoroughfare. Don’t put the packaging from new, high value items such as TV’s or computers out on display waiting for the bin men.
- Ensure that your garden perimeters are secure. Use trellis on top of fencing to make climbing over more difficult – and noisy! Grow ‘defensive’ shrubs such as Pyracantha, Berberis, Holly and the like.
- Don’t leave keys on display near your front door. Thieves are known to ‘fish’ for keys through the letterbox, and then come back to burgle your home or steal your car.
- Start or join a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. Many potential thieves will avoid roads where such schemes exist as they know that residents are more security-aware and look out for each other.
- A burglar alarm is a very effective deterrent. If you decide to install an alarm, get quotes from several companies registered with NSI or SSAIB but be aware that there can be expensive ‘maintenance’ contracts. Security systems are no longer linked directly to the police, only to a security company.
If you want to donate used clothes, etc. to a worthy cause, make sure that you read the ‘small print’ on the various charity bags that get dropped through the letterbox. Many so-called ‘Charities’ are operated from outside the UK, and do not have to comply with UK law regarding distribution of money raised, and their collection may not even be legal. Choose if possible, one of the reputable UK charities such as Oxfam, Save the Children, NSPCC, British Heart Foundation, etc. If in doubt, ‘Google’ the name and see what comes up.
Neighbourhood Watch News – October 2010
At the end of this month, the clocks go BACK one hour as we revert to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), so the evenings will get dark that much earlier. Now is the time to review your security lighting, both inside and outside your home. Inside, remember to re-set any timers controlling lights to reflect the earlier dusk. Outside, check that any PIR-controlled flood-lights are functioning correctly, but remember, any outside flood-light should be angled so as to only illuminate your property – not the whole road! Your neighbours will not welcome their houses being floodlit by every passing pedestrian, car, cat or dog triggering your lights – especially in the middle of the night!
OPERATION GRIM REAPER
Thames Valley Police will be implementing Operation Grim Reaper again this year, to target any anti-social behaviour over the Halloween and Bonfire Night period. The operation will run from late October to early November. Trading Standards will conduct spot checks at relevant premises to ensure that fireworks are not being sold to underage persons. The Fire & Rescue Service will be visiting local schools to promote firework safety awareness, and local shops to ensure fireworks are being stored correctly. Members of the Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be visiting local shops and off-licences to ask for their co-operation, and to be extra vigilant during the period and not sell eggs, flour, alcohol or fireworks to those individuals suspected of potentially misusing them. Various posters will also be available from Thames Valley Police promoting these issues as well as several Halloween posters relating to ‘Trick or Treat’. Remember, if your children are old enough to be allowed out without adult accompaniment, they are TOO old to be ‘Trick or Treating’. Any anti-social behaviour should be reported – see the relevant phone numbers below.
By now, everyone must be aware of the situation relating to HMRC and under- or over-paid tax! It has been reported that ‘phishing’ e-mails started to appear within hours of the original announcement by HMRC. Such e-mails suggest that the recipient is entitled to a tax rebate but require the provision of bank details in order to receive the refund. Should you receive such an e-mail, ignore it and delete it straight away. HMRC will never contact you by e-mail, only by letter. Similar ‘phishing’ e-mails have also been reporting offering refunds of Council Tax. Again, ignore and delete such e-mails – they will NOT be genuine, even if they look it.
Neighbourhood Watch News – August / Sept 2010
NEW SCHEME FOR PHILIP DRIVE
As the result of an initiative from a resident, a successful ‘Start-up’ meeting was held recently and a new scheme for the middle section of Philip Drive has been created. The meeting was well attended and in my non-availability, was supported by Geoff Pegg, Chairman of Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association. A wide range of home and personal safety information was available, including the latest ‘No Doorstep Calling’ stickers which are being well received around the village. If you are not a member of either of the two schemes in this road, and would like further information, contact me.
NEWS FROM THE NAG
At the Neighbourhood Action Group meeting on July 15th, the priority issues for 2010/11 based upon public response to questionnaires are:-
- Antisocial Behaviour including Criminal Damage
- Speeding including Road Safety issues.
The Chairman of the NAG drew the lucky reply to the questionnaire, and the £50 prize offered by Chepping Wycombe PC was won by a gentleman in Tylers Green
COMPUTER PROBLEM - PHONE CALL SCAM
Several residents of our village have reported receiving phone calls from a person claiming to represent Microsoft or a similar organisation, alleging that the resident’s computer operating system has acquired a particularly nasty problem. The caller asks the resident to switch their computer on – if it is not already on – and says that they will help the resident resolve the ‘problem’
Should you receive such a call, do NOT take any action. The caller will ask you to download a ‘patch’ to reputedly sort out the issue for you, whereas in fact, you will be downloading any one of a number of ‘Trojans’, capable of stealing personal data, logging keystrokes, etc.
FINALLY, A PIECE OF COMMUNITY NEWS
If your youngsters are looking for things to do during the summer holidays, there are a number of events being organised by Bucks CC for the 13 – 19 year olds. If you ‘Google’ ‘Bucks Summer Events 10’ this will lead you to:
Enjoy your summer.
Neighbourhood Watch News – July 2010
ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVOUR OR THEFT?
Does the removal of your ‘wheelie’ from in front of your house prior to ‘collection day’ constitute anti-social behaviour; is it theft or is it just a prank? It certainly causes the householder a lot of unnecessary hassle – reporting it to the police; to Wycombe District Council; getting a replacement; managing without a wheelie whilst the ‘wheels’ grind slowly into action. Make sure that your wheelie can be identified by marking it with your house number – and postcode to be doubly sure. It has been known for wheelies to be used for various nefarious purposes, from acting as a ‘stepladder’ to access a vulnerable window or flat roof, to being used as a carrier for stolen property! If you hear a wheelie being moved in the wee small hours don’t assume that it is ‘normal’ – get up and have a look. If it appears dodgy, ring the police on 0845 8 505 505
NO DOORSTEP SELLING – NEW HOUSE STICKER AVAILABLE
Bucks County Council Trading Standards Department have revised the design of the NDSZ house stickers, to make them larger and more visible, and to reflect the 2008 Unfair Trading Regulations. Anyone can place one of these stickers adjacent to their front door if they do NOT wish to receive ‘cold-callers’.
The new sticker has two parts – the yellow ‘Warning’ goes on the outside, the other part goes on the inside of your door to remind you of the numbers to contact.
Contact me if you would like a new sticker.
Neighbourhood Watch News – June 2010
CREDIT CARD SCAM APPEARS AGAIN
This information has come via the NHWatch network in the village.
‘You receive a phone call from ‘someone’ claiming to be from the ‘security department’ for your credit card. They give you a lot of identifying information about you and your card, but then – and this is the IMPORTANT bit – they ask you for the 3-digit CVC number on the back of the card, allegedly to confirm that the card is in your possession. With this number, they can now make telephone and internet purchases, and you won’t know about it until you see your next statement.’
Details of this sort of scam have been well documented on various web-sites, such as:
www.snopes.com and www.hoax-slayer.com
Often, a simple ‘Google’ of a few key words will lead you towards relevant information.
The most important rule is – ‘Never, ever give out personal or security-related information to someone who calls you on the phone.’ If you do need to phone your bank or card company, ALWAYS use a phone number that you know is reliable, NEVER one given to you over the phone by an unknown caller. Banks or Credit-card companies, etc. will NEVER call you and ask for sensitive information over the phone or by e-mail, so if you receive such a request, treat it with the deepest suspicion.
MOBILE PHONE PURCHASE SCAM
The following scam has been reported in Flackwell Heath and Marlow.
‘Whilst away on holiday, a mobile phone is delivered in the victims name to their house, but intercepted by the ‘scammers’ who then disappear. The victims only find out what has happened when they receive notification from the phone company that direct debits have been set up in their name. The personal information is correct, although the bank details are wrong. When the victim contacts the phone company, they promptly inactivate the SIM card. However, that evening the victim gets an e-mail, purporting to be from the bank but with appalling grammar and spelling, asking him to provide the correct bank details so they can update their records.’
This is an example of how the scammers can use personal information obtained from insecurely discarded documents such as invoices, credit card slips, etc. to make illicit transactions.
There are various other scams associated with mobile phones, such as ‘cheap insurance’, bogus top-up charges, phoney (excuse the pun) cash-back offers, etc. If in doubt, check it out using Google or one of the web-sites listed above.
If you are contacted by phone, e-mail or at the door with an ‘offer’ that seems too good to be true, then it probably is ‘too good to be true’. As they say ‘up North’, ‘You never get owt for nowt’! Should you feel inclined to follow up such an offer, don’t let anyone into your home unless you have someone with you, and don’t let yourself be ‘brow-beaten’ into accepting something that turns out to be much more expensive than the original ‘offer’. If in doubt, call Trading Standards.
Neighbourhood Watch News – May 2010
THEFT OF CHARITY COLLECTION BAGS
We all receive charity collection bags through our letter boxes and many of us will give generously to the various genuine registered charities. However, the system is open to abuse with commercial companies posing as ‘charities’, and the collection of genuine charity bags by companies other than the charity for which they are intended. Most genuine collection vans are clearly identified and/or the driver carries ID. Make no mistake – the illegal collection of charity bags is theft, and as such is a reportable crime. One of our residents recently spotted the collection of a St John’s Ambulance bag by ‘unmarked white van’ but she was able to give the police the van registration number and a description of the driver. This information is of value to the police and if you should witness a similar event, their advice is: ‘…get a registration number and if the vehicle is still there, or has just left, call the Non-emergency number ASAP giving the reg. number and approx direction of travel and they may even be able to get a patrol car out as the van will likely as not still be in the area collecting more bags.’
Neighbourhood Watch News – April 2010
SUMMERTIME and the pickings are easy……
By the time you read this, the clocks will have gone forward one hour and we will be enjoying British Summertime. Let’s hope that it’s a bit more summery than the ‘BBQ Summer’ of 2009. Don’t forget to re-set any security timers to reflect this change.
The onset of warmer weather and lighter evenings traditionally signals an increase in sneak-in thefts, when the opportunist burglar will take advantage of an open door or window. Police forces around the country are launching campaigns to encourage householders to keep doors locked and windows secured, even when the house is occupied. One innovative police authority will be using ‘Bluetooth’ technology to send summer campaign messages and ‘alerts’ to mobile phones in the vicinity. People are more relaxed about security when they are at home, but while they are in the back garden or asleep, their property is particularly vulnerable. It is essential that easy points of access like front doors remain locked, particularly whilst you are relaxing or gardening at the rear of the house. At night, all ground floor doors and windows should be locked and other vulnerable points considered.
As Spring and Summer approach, we all look forward to enjoying time in our gardens, even if it does mean occasionally mowing the lawn! However, we would be very annoyed if someone stole garden tools and equipment or valuable garden furniture, ceramics, or even ornamental fish. Taking a few simple precautions can make life harder for the opportunist thief, and help keep our property safe.
- Check your boundaries. Are hedges and fences a deterrent – plant thorny shrubs such as Pyracantha, Berberis, Holly or Hawthorn. Trellis along the top of boundary fences makes them less easy to climb over, and can be attractive. Alternatively, fit ‘Prikkastrip’ to the top edge of any high fence – this is the ‘legal’ equivalent of ‘broken glass’!
- Fit a good padlock to side gates and to any garden shed where you keep equipment.
- Consider fitting an alarm to your shed door – these are a good deterrent.
- Keep garden tools locked away. Not only are they valuable, but they can also be used to force an entry to your home.
- Use a durable security marking system (eg. CREMark) to identify any valuable equipment or garden furniture/ornaments. This may not stop them being stolen, but it may make it easier to get then back.
- Netting your garden pond will make it less easy for fish to be removed – it’s not just herons that make them disappear!
- Finally, when you are away from home on holiday, try to make sure that your house doesn’t ‘look’ empty, and ask a neighbour to keep an eye on things.
Neighbourhood Watch News – March 2010
NEIGHBOURHOOD ACTION GROUP (NAG) – YOUR input wanted
NAG’s are a government initiative intended to help local communities deal with local issues relating to crime. Each NAG comprises representatives of local groups typically including resident associations, the police, your parish and district councillors and other organisations such as Neighbourhood Watch, schools, retailers, etc..
During the past two years, your NAG (Hazlemere & Chepping Wycombe) has addressed issues relating to speeding, parking and anti-social behaviour, and more recently burglary. From time-to-time, reports of the NAG’s activities and achievements have been made available via The Grapevine, Ringmaster messages and the police web-site.
It is now time to review what YOU think the NAG should be working on – should we continue with more of the same, or do YOU think that the situation relating to crime in our parish is now different? To this end, the next Parish Council Newsletter will include an article about the NAG, and a FREEPOST questionnaire so that YOU can let us know about the things that currently concern you. This is your opportunity to influence the activities of your NAG - we will be very pleased to hear from you. Every completed questionnaire returned will be eligible for entry into a free draw for a cash prize of £50
Neighbourhood Watch News – February 2010
AREA MEETING – Summary Notes
There was a good turn out to this meeting held in early December last year, and I was pleased to see a number of co-ordinators and others from Flackwell Heath. Dominic Grieve QC, MP opened the meeting by speaking about the role of the community in reducing crime and creating a climate where anti-social behaviour is unacceptable. This theme was reinforced by Insp. Ray Wilks (Marlow) who emphasised the importance of the local community in acting as ‘the eyes and ears’ of the neighbourhood policing team by reporting suspicious activity, anti-social behaviour and the like. Councillor Mike Appleyard outlined some of the activities of the local councils in terms of crime reduction, and noted the installation of Temporary Speed Indicating Devices (TSID’s) including the one in Blind Lane. Finally, Gerry Doyle, responsible for civil parking enforcement for Wycombe DC, gave a brief overview of parking enforcement in the area. Geoff Pegg, Chairman of Wycombe District Neighbourhood Watch Association, described the role of NHWatch in crime reduction and highlighted the successes during the last year. After a lively discussion, there was an opportunity to enjoy ‘a cup of tea and a biscuit’ whilst visiting the various displays that had been organised, or chatting to the speakers. All in all, a successful meeting.
If ‘Father Christmas’ delivered some desirable gifts to you over the holiday period, don’t forget that these are also desirable to the opportunist burglar. It is never too early to mark such property to increase the chances of return to you should it be stolen and later recovered. There is a wide range of security marking products available:
UV Marker pens – this is probably the cheapest form of security marking. A marker pen is used to put your house number and post code in an unobtrusive location on the item – on the back or underside of electrical/electronic items; on the INSIDE of a mobile phone case, etc. Keep a note of where you put the marking, and remember such marking is not everlasting.
Alphadot – a proprietary microdot system which uses a self-adhesive microdot containing a unique code registered to you. This can be applied to smaller, higher value items such as jewellery, porcelain and the like.
CREmark – this marking system employs a heavy duty marker pen in conjunction with a resistant, protective lacquer, and is more suited to heavy-duty items such as power tools, bicycles, garden ornaments, etc.
SelectaDNA – this is a sophisticated, chemically coded liquid containing uniquely coded microdots, and can be applied to a wide range of items. Your ‘code’ is registered with the manufacturer and access to the register is available to the police.
Finally, take advantage of security systems already available. Make a note of the IMEI number of your mobile phone – this can be found on a label inside the battery compartment, or by entering *#06# on your phone (Asterisk-Hash-Zero-Six-Hash) In the event that your mobile phone is stolen, give your provider the IMEI number to deactivate the device. Alternatively, register the details of your mobile or other portable device (free) on www.immobilise.com
Neighbourhood Watch News – December 2009 / January 2010
REMINDER – Area Meeting, Dec 11th at 7 pm
I hope that you have marked your diary or calendar with this date for the meeting to be held at Wye Valley School – everyone is welcome. Speakers will include Dominic Grieve MP, Supt. Paul Emmings, Insp. Ray Wilks, Cllr. Mike Appleyard and others. There will be table displays on Crime Prevention and other relevant issues
As Christmas approaches and shops get busier, the risk of having your purse ‘dipped’ from your shopping bag increases. A simple yet effective device to alert you to any attempt to steal your purse, are ‘Purse Dipping Bells’. These simply clip to your purse and attract your attention if the purse is disturbed. They are available through NHWatch for the princely sum of £1.00
Christmas gifts are the seasonal target of thieves, whether whilst out shopping, in your car or around the Christmas Tree at home. Don’t leave purchases on display in your car – lock them away safely in the boot. If you do display gifts around the tree, make sure that they are not visible from the public highway or adjacent paths during the day, and draw the curtains at night. Check and review your security arrangements again to ensure that you don’t create openings for the opportunist burglar by leaving any windows or doors unsecured. Check that your house contents insurance covers you for the value of gifts over the Christmas period. If you are gong away over the holiday period, leave lights and a radio on a timer, and get a neighbour to draw your curtains and collect any mail. If you are not already a member of a neighbourhood watch scheme, make joining – or starting – a scheme a New Year resolution.
Theft of SatNav’s from unattended cars is a common occurrence, but just think about it. Most SatNav’s include a ‘Home’ location, so not only has the thief got your SatNav, but he knows that you are NOT at home, and he has the means of navigating TO your home. I suggest that you edit the details of your ‘Home’ location so that it does NOT reveal your home address. Use a local feature such as a car park or store, so that you can still navigate back to your home location. You know where your house is – don’t give the thief directions to get there!
The ‘Car-Jacking’ scam (a note stuck on your car’s rear window in a busy car park) and the ‘Parcel Delivery Service (PDS)’ scam (requiring you to phone a premium rate line) have both surfaced again. The best advice with the former trick is to ignore the note until you are safely out of the car park. With the PDS scam, simply ignore it.
Beat Surgeries at Budgen’s
You may have noticed that the Police and Neighbourhood Watch have held the last two ‘Beat Surgeries’ outside Budgen’s on a Saturday morning, rather than at Christ Church. This change is part of the local police commander’s strategy to make his officers more accessible to the public. Certainly, we had more residents coming up to talk about specific topics; to look at the information and security products available or just to chat. Please let us know what YOU think about this change of venue and approach.
A Date for your Diary
On Friday, December 11th, an significant Meeting for the local NHWatch areas will be held at the Wye Valley School commencing at 7.00 pm. Speakers will include Dominic Grieve MP, Supt. Paul Emmings, Insp. Ray Wilks, Cllr. Mike Appleyard and others. There will be table displays on Crime Prevention and other relevant issues - look out for more information nearer the date. Do try and come along.
There has been a spate of card cloning of late, and several residents report their cards being used fraudulently in the Far East. As in the past, garages seem to feature prominently in the ‘cloning arena’. How they do it is open to speculation, but it has been suggested that the card machines have been tampered with in some way to send your card details to another computer, and that a ‘hidden’ camera records your entry of the PIN number. With your card and PIN numbers, the rest is easy……!! The key thing is to protect your PIN. Ensure that no-one or any thing is ‘looking over your shoulder’ or ‘down from above’ when you enter your PIN. Use your free hand to conceal what you are entering!
The latest Parish Newsletter includes an article on Community Safety with a specific reference to property marking using the product ‘SelectaDNA’ A limited number of packs are being made available to residents at a discounted price of £22, each sufficient to mark up to 50 items. With the current incidence of burglary that we have been experiencing, this is a valuable tool in the armoury of deterrence, and can be used to securely mark and identify a wide range of products. Remember, only 5% of stolen goods are ever reunited with their rightful owners due to lack of positive identification.
Winter is here
By the time you read this, the clocks will have gone back an hour, and the evenings will get dark that much earlier. Make sure that you have reset any timers that you use to operate security devices such as lamps, radio, etc. so they come on and go off at appropriate times. Some modern electronic timers now have a facility for selecting ‘Summer/Winter’ or ‘Daylight Saving’ time, which makes this change very simple.