Vancouver Police are warning the public to be wary of distraction thefts, after a senior citizen fell victim to just such an incident this past weekend, all while in her own backyard.
According to police, the incident took place on July 20 around 11 am, as the 77-year-old woman was gardening at her home in the Cedar Cottage neighbourhood of East Vancouver.
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A man and woman showed up at her property in an SUV and the female passenger got out, before approaching the victim, police said.
She then”forced several pieces of costume jewelry” into the senior’s hands. However, the victim resisted and told the woman to leave.
It was only later, after the suspects had already left, that the woman realized that a gold bracelet had been removed from her wrist during the altercation.
“Distraction thieves work quickly and use the element of surprise to confuse their victims,” said VPD Const. Steve Addison. “They’re successful because victims often don’t realize they’ve been scammed until much later.”
Police said the suspects in this case were driving a dark four-door SUV. The female suspect was between 35 and 45 years old, about 5’3″, with brown, shoulder-length hair, and olive skin. She wore a dark floral-patterned dress with sandals and bright red nail polish. The male driver appeared South Asian, with darker skin, and wore a black baseball cap, and polo shirt.
Detectives from VPD’s Major Crime Section are now investigating this incident, and noted that this incident has similarities to distraction thefts in the past.
“Thieves have targeted elderly men and women who have visible jewelry,” police said.
Essentially, “one or two thieves typically approach a victim and overwhelm them by talking and placing fake jewelry around the victim’s head, neck or wrist,” police explained. “Sleight-of-hand techniques are then used to take off the victim’s own jewelry, replacing it with fake jewelry, before fleeing in a waiting vehicle driven by an accomplice.”
In light of this most recent incident, police are advising people to not permit anyone they do not know into their personal space, and to tell anyone who tries to give them jewelry or place jewelry on them, that they are not interested.
If the situation escalates, they should draw attention and call 9-1-1 immediately.
Anyone with information about this particular distraction theft –or others – is asked to call VPD’s Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.