Friday, 4 December 2015

Don’t let thieves steal your Christmas - South Cumbria

Cumbria Constabulary is reminding the local community to check their security as victims of burglary and theft share their experiences ahead of the festive season.

Christmas Day is now less than a month away and the next few weeks will be a busy time for shoppers, businesses and home owners as they prepare for the big day.

Security may drop to the bottom of the list as people have so many things to do, but Cumbria Police is urging people to remain vigilant and review their security at this time. 

The warning to shoppers follows a spate of distraction thefts throughout the county, where a group of male suspects appear to be targeting lone older females as they are paying for goods at self-service and supermarket till areas. 

PIN numbers are being obtained before the victim is being followed from the shops back to their vehicle, where one suspect is making an approach and using a distraction tactic to allow another to steal the victim’s purse / bank cards. 

One victim, a woman from the Kendal area, was targeted recently at a supermarket in the south of the county. She said “A man told me that I had wires hanging down from the front of my car and that he would help me. I thought it was strange but I’m not the sort of person to tell someone to go away, so I was polite.

“Obviously while I was distracted someone else got my cards and they were then used. They were opportunists – it was very crowded around the tills in the store and I had parked at the end of the car park as I like to walk.

“As Christmas gets closer the shops get busier and I would urge shoppers to really make sure they protect their pin numbers and their property – if you get out of your car to speak to someone, lock it. I’d also advise people to have different pin numbers for different cards, and to only carry around what you need. 

“I’m always very careful with my security and I was still caught out. It can happen to anyone.”

Detective Inspector Jason McKenna said “In the run up to Christmas the majority of us are looking forward to the festivities and buying gifts, but unfortunately there are a minority of organized criminals who are targeting the public as they do their shopping.

“We are asking people to be careful when using their PIN number and to be aware of who is stood next to them or in the close vicinity, and if you see anyone acting suspiciously to report it to store staff or the police.”

Police remind shoppers to:
- Only take out in your handbag what is really needed
- Keep your purses / wallets / cash at the bottom of your bag or fastened in a pocket
- Not leave belongings out of sight in shops – for example handbags being left on the back of chairs or on the floor
- Keep a note of the phone numbers needed if your purse / wallet is stolen
- Make sure you report any theft immediately to prevent thieves using your cards to buy items over the phone or internet
DI McKenna added: “Most often these incidents are opportunist crimes, which can be prevented by taking some simple precautions. South Cumbria is a very low crime area, but people still do need to be careful and protect their belongings.

“Like shoppers, businesses will be so busy in the run up to Christmas, and security can drift to the back of their thoughts. It is so important to ensure that business owners and employees are careful not to give thieves motivation to come back – for instance by cashing up in full view.

“And once you’ve done your shopping and presents have been opened, make sure they are kept away from windows and doors, and identify any expensive items with your postcode using a UV pen. I’d also urge people to dispose of their packaging carefully so not to advertise expensive new goods that are inside the house.  

“We want everyone to enjoy a merry and crime free Christmas and New Year. Anyone with any concerns should call Cumbria Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Richard Rhodes said “In the run up to Christmas people do need to take care and be extra vigilant when out shopping. By listening to the advice from the Police and taking some simple steps, it is possible protect yourself from those criminals who look to take advantage of the busy town centres and shops this time of year.”

Across South Cumbria officers will be working with local shops and bars to ensure they have all the necessary security precautions in place during the busy festive season. We will also be handing out leaflets to members of the public, as well as displaying our ‘Don’t let thieves steal your Christmas’ posters and leaflets in places including in pubs and on buses. 

Working with South Lakeland and Barrow Community Safety Partnership (CSP), Victim Support and Age UK, officers will also be handing out purse bells at four events across the area. These can be fixed to a purse zip to alert the owner if the purse has been removed from a bag.

The CSP, which incorporates the police, South Lakeland District Council, Victim Support and Trading Standards, has also provided funding for the wider campaign, and members have worked with the police throughout the year after identifying acquisitive crime as a priority focus. 

For more Christmas crime prevention advice visit or follow Cumbria Police on Twitter and Facebook.

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