Essex Police warning over purse-dipping thefts

PRESSURE is being turned up on purse thieves who operate in Saffron Walden.

Police have been prompted into a new initiative – called Shopwatch – to help shoppers following two incidents which happened in the town on March 28:

• Between 2.30pm-3.15pm an 80-year-old woman had her purse removed from her handbag while in Hill Street. The purse and its contents, including �21 cash, totalled �92.

• Between 12.45pm-1.30pm in the town’s Waitrose store, a 57-year-old woman had her purse and contents, totalling �44, stolen.

Anyone with information about these crimes should contact police on 0300 333 4444 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Insp Kevin Wakefield of Saffron Walden police said: “Often it is the elderly who are targeted – I think it is a reprehensible crime.

“I would urge people to be on the look-out for such behaviour and report anything suspicious. If you think that your purse or handbag has been stolen alert store staff immediately and contact us.”

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In a bid to minimise the opportunity for purse thieves police are handing out anti-theft devices – security bells and curly cords for attaching purses to handbags – to vulnerable shoppers on visits to the town’s stores.

And it does not stop there – police in Saffron Walden are also urging people to be vigilant in supermarket car parks and at cash machines.

In other parts of the western division, reports have been received of distraction thefts where thieves are targeting shoppers, often women on their own, while they are loading bags into their cars.

“We have had reports where women have been approached by a woman in crisis, wanting directions to the hospital,” said Insp Wakefield. “Meanwhile, an accomplice will make attempts to steal the owner’s purse. These criminals may have already seen the owner put in a pin number for their debit or credit cards at the cash machine or supermarket check out.

“By the time the owner gets home, money will have been taken out of the account.

“This type of crime has not been reported in this area as yet but it is evident elsewhere [in the division].

“I would, therefore, urge people in our district to be vigilant around supermarket car parks and mindful when they are putting in their pin number.”

For further details about protection against thieves call Uttlesford’s crime reduction adviser Peter Caulfield on 0300 333 4444 ext 395387.