Elderly and vulnerable targeted by pick pockets in town centre

PUBLISHED: 13:43 14 May 2018

Devon and Cornwall Police are urging shoppers to be vigilant with their belongings in Exmouth town centre. Main picture by Getty Images.

Devon and Cornwall Police are urging shoppers to be vigilant with their belongings in Exmouth town centre. Main picture by Getty Images.

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Vulnerable pensioners, a disabled woman and a young mum have all been targeted by pick pockets while shopping in Exmouth’s town centre.

Pickpocket Stealing a Wallet from Pocket on Jeans. Picture by Getty Images.Pickpocket Stealing a Wallet from Pocket on Jeans. Picture by Getty Images.

Police believe a gang of thieves are operating in the Magnolia Centre and could be seeking out customers in charity shops.

Rose Bremner, manager at Cancer Research, in The Parade, Exmouth, contacted police when she was made aware a stolen credit had been used to pay for goods in her store.

She said customers have told of ‘numerous thefts’ of personal belongings while shopping in the town centre.

She believes around 13 elderly and vulnerable people had belongings stolen from them while in the Magnolia shopping centre.

Exmouth and Ottery St Mary Inspector Antonia Weeks.Exmouth and Ottery St Mary Inspector Antonia Weeks.

Inspector Antonia Weeks, at Exmouth police, said officers were ‘aware’ of the crimes and ‘suspect there are other victims’.

She said three town centre thefts had been reported to police since January and urged victims to come forward.

Insp Weeks said the offenders remained at large and urged the public to remain vigilant, protect handbags, purses or contactless bank cards, and contact the police with information.

She said: “There maybe a gang targeting charity shops and vulnerable people; they are much more likely to target an older person.

“Any information helps us make the town safer and bring people to justice.

“The best case scenario is we are able to reunite people with their property.”

“We do spend a considerable amount of time in Exmouth town centre, with police on duty 24/7, and will respond to reports of crimes as quickly as possible.”

Charity shop manager Ms Bremner said a pensioner victim had their purse snatched in a town centre charity shop; an elderly man was left ‘shaken up’ when his wallet went missing after two strangers ‘bumped into’ him in The Parade.

A young mum told Ms Bremner her bag had been taken from her pushchair on Exmouth seafront and a partially sighted woman had her credit card stolen and used.

Ms Bremner, of Brixington, said: “We are warning everyone that comes in the shop; we talk to everybody and make sure they put their purses away before they leave the till.

“We don’t ask people if they have contactless, because we don’t want to alert anyone.”

She added: “Since there’s fewer police around thieves can do what they want; they can nick from shops and nothing happens. You can’t even go out shopping anymore.”

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