Namaste – this being my first article of 2019 after a very busy period at work.
I hope all Everest Times readers and staff enjoyed a good Christmas and that 2019 is a happy and prosperous one for everyone.
A few times each month, I work some extra days at the Resolution Centre in Southampton Central Police Station. This unit deals with reported crime which can often be investigated over the phone, or if not, it is passed to an investigation unit to progress.
Of the many crimes which I review, one type is frequently reported – purse thefts.
Generally, these crimes are committed against lone females, often people from the older generation and in supermarkets.
There are two ways in which the cards are used to get money or buy goods; either the criminal will observe someone using their bank card and see the PIN code they use and then look to steal the purse afterwards and go to a cashpoint to withdraw money, or they will steal the purse and quickly use the card by contactless method to purchase some goods.
Victims realise their purse has been stolen when they go to use their bank card at the checkout, or when their bank phone them to alert them of unusual activity on their account, where there have been several quick payments made.
As soon as the victim is aware, the card is cancelled, which is why criminals act fast. They will then move onto a different area, so they don`t get caught.
Quite often, these crimes are not investigated. The criminals will continue with this easy way of getting money, either for themselves, or to fund an organised crime group.
The reason why these crimes are not investigated is because as long as the victim reports the crime and cancels their card, banks will pay the money back into the customers account, so in effect the bank become the victim, where they do not seek any prosecution.
Where crimes like these are investigated, they have very little chance of success because the investigation will rely on the quality of the CCTV and whether someone is identified from this.
CCTV will often record what happened, but the cameras are normally a long way from where the offence happened inside the shop and they do not capture good facial images. The second problem is that any images are circulated within the local police area, but in the case of travelling criminals, the likelihood of a local police officer recognising the suspects is remote.
The relative low value of these crimes and the fact that the victims are normally paid back any loss by their bank, means that it is not proportionate to circulate the CCTV images to other police forces.
Most of these crimes are reported because banks will require a crime reference number for them to pay back any lost funds from an account, however, if it was not for this requirement, I doubt that many would be reported.
To me, crimes like these are still important to help victims and prevent similar incidents from happening, but you may as “why” when the money is paid back in most cases and there is little prospect of catching those responsible.
I speak to many victims of these crimes and the common thing they will tell me is “I feel so stupid” or “I`m afraid someone will follow me when I go shopping again”
They feel `stupid` because they blame themselves for leaving their handbag inside the trolley or not realising someone was watching them.
They feel `afraid` because they are alone and fear being a victim again.
So, although there is no financial loss in most cases, there is mental and emotional damage, which is why it is important to raise awareness of this prevalent crime and suggest ways to prevent it.
- Keep any purse or wallet inside a zipped pocket.
- Don`t put your handbag or other bag you have inside a trolley.
- Attach a small bell to your purse – many police stations will have these.
- When using your card, check to see who is nearby – shield the pad with your hand.
- Don`t keep your PIN number inside your purse or wallet.
- When leaving the shop, place your purse or wallet back in your zipped pocket.
- Make sure your bank has your mobile number.
- Take your mobile phone with you so the bank can alert you of any unauthorised use of your card.
- Cancel your card/s immediately.
- Phone 101 to report the theft (999) if you see the suspect/s.
These simple steps will help keep you safe and prevent you from becoming a victim of tis crime, as well as making it harder for the criminals.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Farnborough Police Office.