Suspected Purse Thief Targeting Women in Halton
A suspected purse thief has been targeting women in Halton for more than one year and Halton police are asking the public to help identify him.
The man is linked to at least 15 incidents involving purses stolen from local hotels and restaurants — most recently on Aug. 20.
Thefts usually take place during breakfast at hotels and dinner at standalone restaurants while victims are distracted or getting food.
One incident in Oakville involved a victim whose cash and jewellery were in her purse.
Similar thefts have also been reported in Toronto and York region, say investigators, who allege the man works with an accomplice who acts as a driver and/or distraction while the thefts occur.
The suspect targets women, usually foreign tourists, who use the back of their chairs to hang their purse.
He’s usually seen on his cell phone and approaches the chair.
Using the cover of his own jacket, he casually removes the purse from the victim’s chair and leaves with it hiding under the jacket.
Police say distraction thieves work in teams and often approach their victims with an offer of assistance such as claiming you’ve dropped something, including money on the ground. While you’re distracted, an accomplice steals your purse or bag.
Residents and visitors are reminded to be aware of their personal belongings while in public places, specifically hotels and restaurants.
Anyone who has information regarding these thefts, or can identify the male suspect responsible for them, is asked to phone Det.-Const. Mike Tidball at Oakville’s criminal investigations bureau, at 905-825-4747 ext. 2275 or Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477.
Photos courtesy of Halton Regional Police
- Never leave personal items (purse, phone, wallet etc.) unattended.
- If staying at a hotel, use the in-room safe for expensive items/cash if available.
- If possible, don’t carry large amounts of cash with you.
- Use your hotel room safe to store travel documents, jewellery and other valuables.
- Don't let yourself be distracted.
- Keep your purse or wallet with you at all times.
- Do not carry large amounts of cash. Use credit or debit cards if possible.
- Keep your purse closed and in front of your body. Don't hang it on your back, on the back of your chair or put it on the floor.
- Carry your wallet in your tighest pocket or carry cash and credit cards in a thin pouch that hangs from your belt inside your pants.
- You are most vulnerable in crowded situations, such as shopping in busy stores, getting on public transportation, and waiting to cross a congested intersection. In crowds, hold your purse securely, or keep your hand on your wallet.
- Be alert to the stranger who gets unnecessarily close. Protect your personal sphere.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Don’t place yourself in situations which may jeopardize your safety.
- Travel in groups rather than alone.
(Source: Halton Regional Police)