'Pickpocket' thefts prompt police warning to Keynsham shoppers

Published on: 01 Dec 2017

Police have issued advice to shoppers in Keynsham following a spate of “pickpocket-style” thefts on the High Street they believe are being carried out by offenders working in pairs.

In the most recent incident, 83-year-old Marlene Hall’s purse, containing £75, was taken from her bag as she did some Christmas shopping in Peacocks at around midday on Friday, November 10.

Her daughter Nikki Howell said she was targeted by two women who saw her as “easy prey” and added: “They are clearly very professional at what they do as they did not disturb Mum, she had no idea that they had unzipped her bag and taken her purse.”

After writing a post about the incident on Facebook to warn others, Nikki said she was shocked to be contacted by a number of people with similar experiences in recent weeks.

One woman said a friend who uses a walking frame was targeted in a charity shop, while a 62-year-old grandmother, Helen Wait, told the Bristol Post she discovered her purse had been taken as she shopped in discount store CM3 back in August.

In another incident a woman said her mother’s purse was stolen after she put her handbag into her trolley as she looked at cards in Card Factory, while  police have issued CCTV images of two women they would like to speak to following the theft of an elderly shopper’s purse in Iceland in October.

The incidents have not been linked by police.

Writing in his Keynshamvoice column, PC James Evans urged readers to warn anyone they felt could become a target and said: “Keynsham High Street has been suffering with pickpocket-style offences where vulnerable members of the public, generally elderly females, are being targeted.

“Offenders have been removing purses from shopping bags both on the High Street and in the shops along it.”

He said the sporadic nature of the incidents meant they were harder for police to target and has offered a number of tips to help shoppers protect their property. These include: Keep shopping bags closed and secured, be aware of your surroundings and unknown people getting into your “personal space”; keep your purse at the very bottom of your bag; speak to staff in the shops if anyone appears to be hanging around you.  

Nikki Howell added that her mother had found the incident very upsetting and said: “She was shaken up at the time and nervous to go shopping on her own but she now has a new handbag which she wears across her body so it’s in front of her.

“Just this morning she said, ‘I have to go out on my own, I won’t be frightened by people like this!’

“I have written to Jacob Rees- Mogg asking what he can do to help with regards to the fact that our town is constantly growing but the police force is shrinking – this is not acceptable.”

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