BURGLARS from as far away as Birmingham are "trading" Gwent pensioners in a nationwide bogus caller operation.

Organised gangs are co-operating to target their attacks on the easiest victims, police have warned.

At a conference held at County Hall, Cwmbran, to launch a new campaign making people aware of the problem, PC Jeff Howells, Gwent Police crime prevention officer, said: "There is a network operating. They could be in Gwent in the morning and in Worcester by lunchtime. It's a professional operation.

"They can actually sell their victims." He explained how the transfer might work.

"One group could carry out a job such as laying a drive and if the householder pays with cash or lives alone or is particularly trusting they would be marked as a potential victim. They would then pass that information on to another gang who could target that house - where they aren't known.

"The problem is that the same people could end up burgled all the time." Gwent Police have now introduced the Bobby Van scheme, which will arrange for secure locks, window catches and chains to be fitted and offer advice free of charge, so that burglars who return find a more difficult target.

PC Howells explained why it was so important to stop the ever-growing problem claiming more victims.

"It really hits their confidence. Old people are more trusting and that trust can be shattered by an episode like this."

He called for more help from the public in tracing gangs and their vehicles - as soon as they strike.

"We need information the same day so we can act to catch them. Anyone who sees anything suspicious should call police straight away on 01495 764711."

Meanwhile, Newport councillor Eddie Burke, cabinet member for adult and housing services, has given his support to the fight.

He said: "Bogus callers are one of the most callous of criminals and commit their crime by tricking their way into the homes of vulnerable people.

"All council staff are issued with identification cards with their name and job title and a photograph so there is no mistaking who they are.

"There is also a verification procedure in place where the householder, when presented with an ID card, can contact the civic centre and have the identity of the person verified by a member of staff.

"We want all householders to ask to see an ID card from anyone who comes to their home and refuse entry to those who cannot provide one."