Knock, knock, who's there? No Jehovah's Witnesses or double-glazing salesmen

The Scotsman/June 22, 2006
By Frank Urquart

Door-to-door salesmen and Jehovah's Witnesses have been hit with a council ban in the first initiative of its kind in Scotland to protect residents from unwelcome cold callers.

Angus Council has joined forces with Tayside Police and Neighbourhood Watch to set up six "no cold-calling zones" throughout the area, with plans for more than 100 eventually.

Doorstep cold-calling is often used as a smokescreen by criminals to prey on vulnerable households, particularly the elderly.

Pilot schemes, where signs and window stickers warned off would-be door-to-door sellers, significantly reduced general crime figures in the area, according to council research.

Placards, warning uninvited representatives that they are entering a "no cold-calling area", have been attached to neighbourhood watch signs in the six zones. Window stickers are also being used to warn potential callers they are not welcome.

However, party canvassers calling at houses during local government, Westminster and Holyrood elections, have been excluded from the scheme.

Chief Supt Bill Harkins, the divisional commander with Tayside Police, said: "Tayside Police is fully committed to and supports any initiative that will assist in the reduction of crime and the fear of crime within our area. Doorstep crime often involves the elderly or vulnerable members of our community."

Karen Kelly, the chair of neighbourhood watch in Angus, said: "The Angus executive neighbourhood watch committee all agreed that all watch areas in Angus should become 'no cold-calling areas'.

"Nobody wants bogus callers or pushy salespeople and we think this is a positive step to prevent unwanted callers."

A spokeswoman for Angus Council said research had revealed residents unanimously supported the introduction of "no cold-calling zones". She said: "The scheme is about people not approaching anyone's house without a prior arrangement. It is an advisory scheme and is not enforceable and we are just inviting people to co-operate.

"The scheme will not apply to political party canvassers during local and national government elections. The scheme is to stop doorstep selling and to deter those that are coming to give you their sales pitch."

She added: "There are plans for 118 zones to be set up across the county, covering neighbourhood watch areas. This will be the largest number of 'no cold-calling zones' in the UK. It builds on the work carried out in the county to drive out rogue doorstep sellers."

The new "no cold-calling zones" in Angus are being supported by BT, which has donated £3,000 to the campaign.

Trading Standards Institute research has found 96 per cent of people do not want salespeople calling at their door, while 25 per cent reported having a bad experience with a cold caller in the 24 months prior to the survey.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland's national manager, said: "Congratulations to Angus for its wholehearted approach. People should not have to put up with uninvited intrusion into their homes or the mis-selling of services and we are very happy to support this initiative."

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