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Police Warn Of Mobile Phone Distraction Thefts in Guildford

Published on: 1 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 4 Mar, 2013
Covering valuables with a paper or a map before stealing them is an old trick but can still be effective.

Covering valuables with a paper or a map before stealing them is an old trick but can still be effective.

Surrey Police is warning the public to watch out for a distinctive distraction technique to steal mobile phones.

Five similar incidents have been reported in Guildford alone and others Epsom and Staines.

The offence works by the offender(s) approaching the victim in a café or restaurant and asking for directions. They place a map over the victim’s mobile phone or smart phone and engage them in conversation. When they leave, the offender(s) take the map and phone with them.

The most recent incident occurred yesterday (Thursday, 28 February) in a coffee shop in White Lion Walk, Guildford. The victim, a woman in her 40s, was sitting reading a newspaper with her iPhone 5 on the table. A man in his early 20s, who spoke with an accent, believed to be eastern European, put a map on the table and asked for directions. After he left, the victim realised that her phone was missing.

This was the fifth similar incident in Guildford with other incidents occurring at a coffee shop in Guildford High Street on 22 February, a fast food restaurant in Guildford High Street on 18 February, a coffee shop in Guildford High Street on 8 February and a coffee shop in Market Street on 25 January.

There have also been reports of a similar distraction technique being used in thefts at a coffee shop in Epsom High Street on 11 February and a restaurant in the Two Rivers retail park in Staines on 20 February.

Similar suspect descriptions have been given in a number of the incidents of two Asian men, aged in their late teens or early 20s.

Detective Sergeant Jim Strugnell, investigating, said: “We’re not telling people to never leave mobile phones on the table in front of them but would urge people to be aware of other people around them, and if you are approached in such a manner, pick up the phone yourself before engaging in any conversation.

“We need people to keep reporting any incidents or suspicious activity to us so that we can build up a picture of those responsible and where the offences are occurring. If you think you have been a victim of such an offence but have not already reported it to the police then please do so as soon as possible.”

logo-surrey-police-darkBGAnyone with information about any of these offences, or who has been a victim of a similar incident themselves, is asked to call Surrey Police on 101, quoting reference GD/13/1368. Alternatively, information can be passed anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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