City Watch


Thieves have used maps to cover their victims' phones.

Thieves who use a sleight-of-hand distraction technique to steal mobile phones from cafe and restaurant customers have returned to the city. Three people have fallen victim to the scam in which thieves place a map or other paperwork over their targets' phones, engage them in conversation and then lift up the paperwork with the phone hidden underneath. One victim has told police the thieves told them they were lost and placed a map on top of their mobile phones. Several years ago, a gang from the West Midlands carried out more than 30 map trick thefts in the city centre in the space of four weeks. However, two others have fallen victim to the same scam, but on those occasions the thieves claimed to be charity collectors and placed paperwork relating to their appeal over the phones. Officers are keeping an open mind on whether the city is being targeted by a professional gang of travelling thieves. Police have warned shoppers to keep their phones, wallets and purses out of sight in public. They have also contacted cafes in the city centre to urge their staff to keep an eye out for suspicious characters and to remind their customers to keep valuables out of sight.

Inspector Simon Preston, commander of city centre police, said: "We have had three incidents in the past week or so. We don't know for sure whether the people who are committing these thefts are from the city or not, but they will be out there on a daily basis looking for opportunities. We are getting the message out to the cafes and fast-food restaurants to ask their staff to be vigilant. People will naturally want to have their phones out while they are sitting in a cafe because they will be taking calls, sending messages or checking social media accounts. But I would advise people not to leave their phones or other valuable items on table tops and to keep valuable items in a secure bag."

A city centre cafe owner, who asked not to be named, said: "We will be keeping an eye out for these people and reminding our customers to be careful."

Police are recommending people download a free tracking application which, in the event of a theft, can lead police to the handset. Also, valuables such as phones, jewellery and bikes can be registered on a free national database, which helps police return lost or stolen goods to their owners and also helps prosecute offenders.

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Details from Leicester Mercury









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