HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 c510W
Mr. Olner

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to respond to the crime of distraction burglary. [120181]

Mr. Charles Clarke

Bogus callers claim over 16,000 victims every year, but the true figure is believed to be much higher because many people do not report the burglary.

This is a particularly nasty crime as its victims are usually the most vulnerable people in our society; more often than not they are older people living alone.

I have established a steering group bringing together government and industry. Its membership is made up of: Severn Trent Water, Water UK, the Electricity Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers, Age Concern, BT Security, Crime Concern, Crimestoppers, the National Neighbourhood Watch Association, the Institute of Trading Standards, the National Housing Federation and the Womens Royal Volunteer Service. It first met on 11 April and is currently finalising a detailed set of proposals to take forward its work.

This group will: pull together existing good practice from across the country; establish a database so that details on offenders can be shared; provide co-ordinated advice for victims of this crime; and produce a help pack for workers who have regular contact with people from vulnerable groups.

Two staff will support it: a community Safety Officer from local government and a police detective superintendent. Both are based at the Home Office.

I will tomorrow, with the National Neighbourhood Watch Association and Severn Trent Water, launch this initiative with the first nationwide leaflet drop to groups and residents across the country.

I am pleased to report that Water UK have agreed to provide sponsorship support for this initiative for two years. The Electricity Association has also agreed to support the Taskforce by a financial contribution.

This is not, however, a crime that the Government can tackle alone. Organisations that send out people for home visits have an enormous role to play and I am very pleased that so many have agreed to support this initiative. But more is needed and we will continue to seek support from all our partners in this.

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