Cops hit back at sneaky thieves

PUBLISHED: 12:59 01 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:14 06 May 2010

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Devine with the posters

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Devine with the posters

PICKPOCKETS and purse thieves are being targeted in a new police initiative. There has been a plague of offences in Herts and officers are determined to stamp down on the culprits. In the first four months of this year there were 671 personal thefts which

PICKPOCKETS and purse thieves are being targeted in a new police initiative.

There has been a plague of offences in Herts and officers are determined to stamp down on the culprits.

In the first four months of this year there were 671 personal thefts which include pickpocket and purse dipping crimes.

In Comet country, there were 65 offen-ces in Stevenage, 32 in Hitchin and 21 in Letchworth GC.

Under the slogan of "Don't be today's lucky dip", police have just launched Operation Dipper.

It aims to warn people to be alert and keep valuables safe and out of sight.

Police say they are also taking positive action to deter would-be pickpockets and arrest anyone who commits this type of theft.

Assistant chief constable Steve Devine said: "Thefts of purses have risen significantly in the last year and we don't underestimate the effect this type of crime has on its victims.

"The majority of the people targeted are the most vulnerable members of our communities, such as elderly women. We need the public's help to make it as hard as possible for people to commit this type of crime in the first place.

"We would urge people to be alert when they are out shopping in town centres. The offenders often approach their victims from behind and so they are rarely seen. Sometimes the victim does not feel anything and only realises what has happened when they need to get their purse or wallet out again.

"Men and women of all ages can be targeted - women with open shopping bags or handbags and men who keep their wallet or phone in their back pockets. It only takes a split second for thieves to steal a purse or wallet. However, these types of thefts are opportunist crimes and can easily be prevented."

To support the campaign a range of posters will be displayed across the county. One targets the elderly, warning them to keep their valuables safe.

Others target the offenders as well as young women in night clubs and bars.

Mr Devine added: "We have also seen a rise in thefts at busy night clubs and bars across the county. We are urging all young women who socialise in these venues to remain alert and watch their valuables. The offenders of these crimes often work in small groups and target young women's handbags for their purses or mobile phones."

There have been a number of arrests of purse dippers over the last few months. Most of them had travelled into the county to commit crime.

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