April 2023: News from Avon & Somerset Police Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford

AS the national lead PCC for Economic and Cybercrime, I’m always supportive when I see a national campaign highlighting the impact that fraud can have on communities and how we can work together to stop this criminal activity.

This is why I was delighted to see that the charity Crimestoppers has launched a year-long national campaign to raise awareness about the personal dangers and harms that consumers face when they knowingly or unknowingly buy fake goods.

Causing a £9 billion annual loss to the UK economy, counterfeit goods fraud can be defined as the sale of fake items as authentic goods from established brands.

The criminals behind this crime intend to deceive and exploit consumers into buying fake products, thinking they’ve bagged themselves a bargain. It’s worth stressing that those individuals who deliberately buy a fake product are also committing a crime and contributing to the problem.

There’s always a victim when you buy a fake product: fake goods cause 80,500 UK job losses every year and the crime has links to organised crime groups who are complicit in human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and prostitution.

While criminals are becoming more skilful at finding new ways of ripping people off, there are a few signs to look out for to protect yourself when you’re looking for a good deal.

These include: the price being too good to be true; dodgy websites and an unusual place of sale; spelling and grammatical errors on websites and product packaging; differences in product or packaging; and missing information like the batch number.

I’m urging local people to report any information they have in relation to counterfeit fraud using Crimestoppers’ anonymous reporting service, which can be found online or by calling 0800 555 111.

Dog theft is a wide concern for pet owners in our force area.

Last month, to mark National Dog Theft Awareness Day, my team spoke to Avon & Somerset Police’s Animal Welfare Legislation Officer, PC Natalie Cosgrove.

She told us that the force recorded 16 cases of dog theft in 2021 and only five in 2022. While a reduction and, I’m sure reassuring to many, that is still five cases too many.

If you are a dog owner, there are specific security precautions you can take to make dog theft harder, including camera doorbells, keeping doors locked and sensor lighting outside your house.

I would also like to remind those who have a dog to not leave it unattended in your car, your garden, or tied up outside shops.

Remember, microchipping is not only a legal requirement, it means your dog will be much easier to track down if it is stolen.

I also urge dog owners to consider DNA tracking to help identify their dog if it is stolen then recovered by the police. More information on DNA tracking can be found on the ‘DNA Protected’ website.

If your dog has been stolen, you should immediately contact the police and report the crime as theft.