Peel Crime Prevention Unit Sergeant Paul Trimble said handbag thefts at shopping centres had increased, mostly at grocery stores.
‘The high-risk areas shopping 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, even when the victim is only centimetres away.’
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 onto 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 their personal identification numbers anywhere in their bags, as offenders are withdrawing large amounts of cash within minutes of stealing the cards.’