CRIMINALS masquerading as legitimate businesses are being cracked down on in Chichester, Bognor Regis, Midhurst and Petworth.
Vulnerable and elderly residents of all communities have been targeted in the past, leading Sussex Police to join forces to launch Operation Rogue Trader Week, which started on Monday (April 7).
Roadside checks have been carried out in the Chichester district, with road policing officers supporting colleagues in stopping vehicles and checking for any illegal activity associated with rogue traders.
This has also revealed a number of other offences including unlicensed driving and possession of drugs, according to a police spokesman.
PC Dave Lyons, who co-ordinated Chichester Police’s activities, said: “Operation Rogue Trader started in the Midlands in 2006 and has grown to be supported by nearly all of the police forces in England and Wales.
“While the messages have remained broadly similar, the criminals are always coming up with something new and it’s important that we keep people alert to the problems and advised of the ways that these crooks are using to defraud them.
“They do prey on the most vulnerable members of our community, so please make sure that your elderly relatives, friends and neighbours are aware not only of the scams that might take place on their phones or through their postbox and the problems of people turning up on their doorsteps and alarming them into having unnecessary work done in their homes and gardens.
“There is a useful publication called The Little Book of Scams available from police stations or via the Sussex Police website and local officers and PCSOs are always happy to give advice.
“If you are suspicious of anyone calling or visiting your home or you see something going on in your neighbourhood that you’re not happy about, please call Sussex Police on 101. If it’s going on there and then and you think a crime is being committed, then call 999 immediately.”
The event is largely co-ordinated by Operation Liberal, the national intelligence unit for distraction burglary and associated travelling criminality and supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)
Officers from a number of districts in Sussex have linked up with local authorities, Trading Standards and the Vehicle Operator and Services Agency in roadside checks and have also been out with PCSOs and police cadets spreading the word around the county’s towns and villages.
A police spokesman added: “Rogue traders are criminals who take advantage of householders by using high-pressure sales techniques. “The work is often expensive, sub-standard and not required at all.
“Rogue trading is often linked to distraction burglary, which is carried out by an offender who gains access to a property by distracting or deceiving the householder in order to steal valuables or cash.”
Street briefings have taken place in many areas, particularly concentrating on Operation Signature that is alerting people to scams carried out by criminals who use mail to con people into giving them money.
Visits have been made to scrap metal merchants and jewellers to alert them to the problems of being offered stolen material and items.
Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for residents’ services, which covers trading standards, said: “It’s so important that we raise awareness of the activities of these con artists who prey on the most vulnerable members of our society. They employ clever tactics so it’s vital residents are made aware and are advised who they can contact for help.
“Sussex Police should be the first port of call if you think a crime is being committed, but any general concerns can be reported to our Trading Standards officers via an online form at www.westsussex.gov.uk/tsreport.”