Peel Crime Prevention Unit Sergeant Paul Trimble said handbag thefts at shopping centres had increased.
‘The high risk areas are the fruit and vegetable and meat sections due to customers taking their eyes off their trolleys while checking and selecting produce,’ he said.
‘This is when offenders will have enough time to unzip handbags and steal purses.’
Sgt Trimble said thieves used numerous techniques to steal purses and handbags.
‘They are using distraction techniques, usually by bumping or brushing past their victim,’ he said. ‘They often work in pairs, with one distracting the victim by dropping items on to the floor.
‘When the victim stops to help, the other offender removes belongings from the bag.’
Sgt Trimble urged shoppers to be vigilant and monitor their surroundings.
‘Police are viewing security images daily and are shocked at how brazen the offenders are while stealing these items in such close proximity to the victims,’ he said.
‘Shoppers should not have personal identification numbers anywhere in their bags as offenders are withdrawing large amounts of cash within minutes of stealing the cards.
‘People should make sure they have photocopied bankcards and other important items they carry.’
Witnesses to thefts should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.