Police in Chesterfield are warning shoppers to be on their guard after a number of distraction thefts in the area.
The most recent happened in the town centre on Friday, October 4. A 52-year-old woman had been shopping in the High Street and Burlington Street area at around 2.45pm.
She realised her purse was missing while waiting for her bus home on Stephenson’s Place and reported it to police.
The offenders had used her cards to withdraw cash shortly after the incident.
Police are investigating 12 similar reports in the town centre since the start of September. There have also been three incidents at supermarkets in the Chesterfield area.
One woman reported that her purse had been stolen from her bag, which was in a trolley while she was shopping at Morrisons in Staveley on Tuesday, September 24.
There have also been two reports from people who have been approached by a man in the car park at Morrison’s on Chatsworth Road during September, and their purse stolen while they were distracted.
Inspector Russell Dakin, of the community safety unit in Chesterfield, said: “It really is important that shoppers remain vigilant, keeping handbags closed and reporting anything suspicious to police or shop staff straight away.
“When paying at the till or using a cash machine, make sure you cover the machine with your hand as you enter your pin and if someone asks for help, speaks to you or uses things like maps to distract you, then make sure you keep your handbag and purse close.”
Insp. Dakin added: “Patrols are being carried out in the town centre and at local stores to help keep local shoppers safe but please do your bit to make sure you don’t become a vulnerable target for thieves.”
Advice to shoppers includes:
Keep your bag closed and close to you at all times, if possible with the opening towards your body.
Close your purse and put it away before you leave the till.
Try not to overload yourself with bags and coats.
Avoid carrying your purse or wallet in a back trouser pocket.
Keep cash secure and out of sight.
Do not leave your handbag, push chair or shopping trolley unattended for any length of time.
Always make sure that no one is looking over your shoulder before entering your PIN number at the cash machine, make sure your money is put away before leaving the machine and ensure your purse is out of reach.
Do not write down your PIN and keep it in your wallet, purse or handbag. If you cannot remember your PIN, you can change it at your bank to a number which is easier to remember.
Anyone who may have seen anything suspicious, or with information about these incidents should contact Derbyshire police on 101, the non emergency number, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.