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Home   Ashford   News   Article

Shoppers at Sainsbury's and Waitrose in Ashford, Hythe and New Romney targeted by distraction thieves, Kent Police warns

13 March 2014
by Suz Elvey

Shoppers in Ashford, Hythe and New Romney are being warned to be on their guard after a spate of distraction thefts in supermarket car parks.

Criminals working as a team have struck seven times in the last three weeks using one of two methods, Kent Police said. 

In the first method, when the shopper returns to the car park with their shopping an offender distracts them by saying one of their tyres has been punctured and showing them a nail sticking out of it.

Sainsbury's in Ashford

Sainsbury's in Ashford

As the victim bends down to inspect the damage an unseen accomplice steals their bank card from the car or shopping trolley. 

The second method involves a thief informing the victim they have dropped some money then handing over a small amount of cash while an accomplice picks the shopper's pocket. 

One of the offenders in the team stays close to their target while he or she is at the checkout to take note of the PIN number being entered into the chip and pin machine, police added.

Thefts have been reported at the following supermarkets:

  • February 21 – Sainsbury’s, Hythe
  • February 22 – Sainsbury’s, Hythe (two incidents)
  • February 27 – Waitrose, Hythe
  • March 4 – Sainsbury’s, New Romney
  • March 6 – Sainsbury’s, Kingsmead Road, Canterbury
  • March 11 – Waitrose, Ashford

Detective Chief Inspector Emma Banks said: “There are no set patterns and nothing to suggest these incidents are linked. We believe different offenders are responsible using a tried and tested distraction technique.

“The distraction works because it is human nature to take these strangers at face value, especially when they appear to be offering helpful information such as ‘your tyre has a puncture’ or ‘you have dropped some money’.

“My advice is to treat such approaches with caution and to take care to put your shopping and purse away and lock items inside the car if possible before you engage with the stranger.

“If you do engage with them - beware of anyone who might be hanging around and don’t be afraid to lose eye contact with the person who is trying to get your attention, to check what’s going on around you.

“Take care when entering your PIN number in the supermarket, use one hand to conceal view of the keypad from other people.

“If you are suspicious about anyone approaching you stay calm, keep your belongings safe, and either report the incident to the shop or call Kent Police.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Kent Police on 101 or call Kent Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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