Phones And Wallets Stolen From Diners

3 August 2011, 14:14 | Updated: 4 August 2011, 08:54

Police are issuing advice after a number of thefts of peoples' mobile phones, wallets and purses from coffee shops and restaurants across Hertfordshire.

Thefts have happened while people are sitting at tables either having a coffee or eating a meal. In most cases, wallets, purses and mobile phones have been left on display on tables, and offenders have either distracted the person to steal one of these Hertfordshire Police Posteritems or taken it when they weren’t looking.

Thefts have included the following:

1) At Costa Coffee on Harpenden High Street on 19 July, a man was having a coffee at about 3.40pm when he was approached by a man trying to sell him a newspaper. The man declined, but the offender tried repeatedly to sell it before grabbing the man’s phone and running from the shop (F2/11/1174).

2) At Costa Coffee on Berkhamsted High Street a woman was having coffee on Sunday 10 July at just before 3pm when a man approached her and offered her a flyer for the coffee shop. As he distracted her with the flyer, he then took her mobile phone, which was on the table, and hid it under the other flyers (crime ref D2/11/594).

3) At Costa Coffee on Tring High Street a woman was having coffee with a friend on Wednesday 15 June between 2pm and 2.30pm when they were approached by a man. He distracted them by trying to sell them cards and took the woman’s mobile phone, which had been on the table (crime ref D3/11/368).

4) At a café in Bircherley Green shopping centre on Thursday June 16 a woman was sitting having a coffee and reading a magazine at about 2.40pm when she was approached by a man trying to sell her birthday cards. She declined, but he became very insistent. He then took her mobile phone from the top of the table.

Detective Superintendent Mark Drew from the Local Policing Command said: “There has been a slight increase in this kind of crime across the county in recent months. Whilst not a large number of incidents, we would like to take this opportunity to remind people to be vigilant of their purses, wallets and mobile phones when going out for coffee or a meal and help us beat these thieves.

“In particular, we are asking people to keep mobiles and other valuables out of sight of would-be thieves by putting them in your bag or a pocket, rather than on display on a table. Also, be aware of who is around you and anyone that may try to divert your attention away from your possessions by offering you something.”

He added: “People often relax while out for coffee or a meal, and can sometimes forget to think about simple crime prevention measures they can take to safeguard their belongings. Hopefully our reminder will ensure people can still relax, but safe in the knowledge their valuables are safe.

“Alternatively, if you witness an offence of this kind, I would encourage you to please get in touch via our non-emergency number 101 and help us foil thieves.”

Hertfordshire Constabulary is also releasing posters to go up in bars and restaurants as a reminder to people entitled: “Relax with a drink knowing your mobile is safe”.

Herts Police is issuing the following crime prevention advice for when people are in cafes and restaurants:

* Don’t leave your mobile, purse, wallet or other valuables on the table.
* Keep them out of sight inside your bag or pocket. If in a bag, preferably use one that can be closed and zip it up. You can also bury valuables to the bottom of the bag.
* Never leave any valuables on a table unattended, even for a short period. This could be when a thief spots them and takes them.
* Be wary of anyone who approaches you trying to sell you something or give you something like a flyer or similar, so diverting your attention.
* You can also register your valuables on the free online property database That way, police have more chance of being able to return them to you if they're lost or stolen.