IT MAY Easter rather than Christmas but Chester Police are urging shoppers to make sure they do not leave home without their jingle bells.
They have designated Tuesday, May 3 as an awareness day to provide shoppers with information on ways to combat purse-dipping thieves.
Police Community Support Officers Dave Smith, Robbie Large and Carl Humphreys will tour the main shopping streets with Amy Grafton-Cooper from Chester Against Business Crime, talking to people and handing out hundreds of purse ties and sets of ‘jingle bells’.
The ties attach purses and wallets to a bag or pocket. The bells provide an audible alarm if a purse is moved suddenly.
Dave Smith said: “Purse-dipping is not a major problem in Chester but it can be very distressing for the victims. They not only lose money and face the hassle of cancelling and re-arranging cards but the purses and wallets often contain pictures and similar items which have sentimental value and are literally irreplaceable.
“Purse dippers are not worried about people’s feelings. They tend to be professional criminals who arrive in small groups from other areas such as the West Midlands, Liverpool and Greater Manchester.
“They ‘work’ the city centre for a day, or a couple of days, then move on. As a result we get a batch of purse thefts for a day or so and then it goes quiet again.
“These thieves are looking for an easy touch and are quite unscrupulous. They will target the old and vulnerable as a first choice.
“Working with the business community, the council and other agencies we are able to track and arrest many of them but crime prevention is always a better option. We thought early Spring was an ideal time to remind people of ways to beat the purse-dipper.”
Chester Against Business Crime have financed the purse-ties and the bells.
Amy Grafton-Cooper said: “We want people to enjoy the time they spend in the city centre and having your purse stolen obviously won’t contribute to that.
“The good news is that combating this type of criminal isn’t difficult. If they think trying to take your purse or wallet will be difficult and risky, they will leave you alone.”
If you are suspicious about someone’s behaviour report it to the store staff or to a Police Officer or Police Community Support Officer if one is nearby. Alternatively, call the Cheshire Police Information line 0845 458 0000.