Police warning on purse thefts

PUBLISHED: 13:56 06 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:55 06 May 2010

THIEVES could target your mother or grandmother next. That is the message from police concerned with the growing number of purse thefts in the area. There have been nearly 100 reported incidents of purse thefts in Stevenage and North Herts since January.

THIEVES could target your mother or grandmother next. That is the message from police concerned with the growing number of purse thefts in the area.

There have been nearly 100 reported incidents of purse thefts in Stevenage and North Herts since January.

Supt Adrian Walter said officers in the eastern area, which covers Stevenage, North Herts, East Herts and Broxbourne, are now dealing with 60 plus incidents a month.

He said the suspects are eastern European people who live in London and travel into Hertfordshire often using public transport.

In most cases they are women with long black hair, one in western dress and one in eastern European dress.

In some cases children have even been used by offenders as a distraction or to actually take the purse.

Most victims are elderly women although some young mums have also had their purses stolen.

The average age of a victim in Stevenage is 62 years and 63 years in North Herts.

According to police statistics women are most likely to have their purse stolen on a Tuesday or Wednesday lunchtime.

One of the biggest problems the police have is that the purses are never recovered which means forensic evidence is always lost and there have been very few arrests.

Supt Walter said: "This is no doubt organised crime. We are working towards preventing these crimes occurring by making people aware of the problem and reminding them to keep their money safe and secure.

"It only happens because old people let it happen but it is easy to prevent.

"Put your purse at the bottom of your bag and zip it up and it will not be stolen."

He said he would like to have more support from shopkeepers. So far cooperation has been variable. Letters are going out to managers now to warn them about the problem.

He encouraged people to intervene if they see a purse theft in action.

He said: "We need arrests. If you see a theft in progress call 999. These offenders aren't physically dangerous so people could intervene."

He went on: "This is not one the Government's key priorities so we have limited resources. We need people to work with us to combat the problem. This could happen to your mother or grandmother next."

* As an extra measure police are offering multi-purpose personal alarms, which can be attached to purses. They are available from crime prevention officers. Call 0845 3300222.


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