West Midlands Police have issued a warning to residents in the Black Country following a spate of distraction burglaries by a gang targeting elderly people.
There have been at least 15 offences committed since mid-October by crooks posing as police officers, “water board” engineers and gardeners to trick their way into pensioners’ homes.
Once inside they are distracting victims while accomplices search rooms for cash, jewellery and other valuables.
During one offence on the afternoon of 22 October in Greenwood Road, Walsall, they gained access to a back garden by claiming to be carrying out water pipe maintenance.
The residents returned from a shopping trip to find their patio window smashed and a safe stolen containing cash and personal documents.
The offenders are understood to be white men with Irish accents who are taking advantage of the CoVID-19 virus by wearing surgical masks to protect their identity.
So far they have struck at addresses in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell. Police believe they are using a white van, black VW Golf GTi and also a silver BMW X5 with ladders on the roof.
Sergeant Tom Frenchum said: “These are crimes committed by heartless offenders. They are targeting residents in their 80s and 90s, people they believe are easy prey and who will fall for their lies.
“Force has been used against some victims. We’ve had accounts from some who say they got suspicious and asked the men to leave – but were then held down while rooms were searched.
“We need residents to be alert to the threat and for people to share our message with elderly family members, friends or neighbours.
“And if anyone sees anything suspicious or have been visited by doorstep callers matching the description to contact us as they may have important information.
“People out there will know who is responsible. I would urge them to do the right thing and get in touch. They are stealing from old, vulnerable people and do not deserve any protection.”
If anyone receives a knock on the door from people claiming to be from the police, council, utility company or any other organisation always ask to see ID.
Never let them inside your home unless you are sure they are genuine – and phone the organisation they claim to be from if you want to be 100 per cent sure.
Anyone with information is asked to message West Midlands Police on Live Chat through the force website or call on 101 quoting crime reference 20DY/252500A/20.