A town's elderly people are to be trained in how to spot and foil doorstep confidence tricksters.

The University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, has joined forces with Cleveland Police, to host free training sessions offering advice and guidance to help local pensioners feel safer in their own homes.

Working in partnership with the police, six student volunteers will deliver a Beware the Bogeyman advice session to a group of elderly people on Wednesday June 8. The session, held at the University's Clarendon Building, from 10am to 2pm, will include role plays and a video presentation with the aim of helping older people feel more confident when dealing with callers at the door.

Beware the Bogeyman is part of Operation Strongbow, a multi-agency approach launched on Teesside to tackle distraction crime.

The students trainers were coached by former Chief Superintendent Brian Steele, an acknowledged expert on doorstep crime who has carried out research into the area on behalf of the Home Office, and Detective Sergeant Greg Swinnerton from Cleveland Police.

Detective Sergeant Swinnerton said: "In Cleveland we have seen a decrease in the number of distraction burglaries since we began Operation Strongbow in June 2003. Since then our detection rate has risen from 3 per cent to 30 per cent.

"The most common distraction burglary is still caused by someone posing as a representative for the water board or a gas or electricity supplier. Our message here is to always ask for an identity card and then call the company, but from a number in the phone book, not from a number on the ID card."

The training session at the university is open to all older people and free of charge. To book a place, which includes a buffet lunch, call Jayne Villiers, University of Teesside Volunteer Project Co-ordinator, on 01642 384280 or email j.d.villiiers@tees.ac.uk

The Northern Echo launched its Doorstoppers campaign last year to highlight the problem of bogus callers and doorstep thieves.