Vancouver Police are warning the public to be vigilant after an increase in reports of thefts involving distraction techniques throughout the Lower Mainland since June.
“Thieves using the element of distraction isn’t a new concept – it is something we see from time to time,” says Constable Tania Visintin, VPD. “We want the public, especially the elderly, to be very cautious when approached by strangers while out walking, shopping or even doing chores in the yard. Be cautious of strangers getting close, offering hugs, placing fake jewelry on you or asking for help.”
Police have noticed the following scenarios:
- Street distractions – a female suspect will approach an elderly person who is wearing expensive jewelry and distract them by hugging or getting close to them and placing fake jewelry on them while removing the authentic jewelry. In other cases, the suspect has asked the victim if they could bless their child.
- Store distractions – suspect(s) target a jewelry or convenience store when only one employee is working. The suspect(s) will distract the employee while the other suspect accesses the back storage room to steal currency, cigarettes and/or safes.
- PIN pad distraction – suspect(s) will place themselves close behind a shopper at a checkout and watch a debit card being used, including the PIN. The suspect(s) will follow the victim out to the victim’s car and distract them while a second suspect removes the debit card from a purse or wallet.
- Family in need – suspect(s) will stop victims in cars on the street or a highway ramp. They will approach the victim and supply a fictitious story about a family member in need. The suspect offers expensive-looking jewelry as collateral for financial assistance which the victim will later learn is fake.
“We are encouraging everyone to spread this information to elders and others in their lives who may not have access the news or social media,” adds Visintin. “Please tell your parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents and ask them to be aware and report suspicious activity to police by calling 9-1-1.”
There have been 16 incidents reported police in the Lower Mainland since June 1. Eight of these incidents were in Vancouver.
Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to contact the Vancouver Police Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.