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Suspected purse dippers arrested in Bishop's Stortford town centre

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Police arrested a suspected purse-dipping gang after two elderly women were targeted in Bishop’s Stortford town centre last Thursday morning (April 11).

Thieves stole a 76-year-old woman’s Cath Kidston purse while she was shopping in Marks & Spencer. It contained £190 cash and bank cards. When she realised it had gone, store staff contacted police.

Officers went to investigate and saw three eastern European people – two women and a man – loitering suspiciously.

Police then received an alert from staff in H&M, where an 89-year-old woman had her red leather purse, which contained £50 cash and bank cards, taken.

Officers went to investigate while their colleagues stayed with the suspect trio. When they watched H&M’s CCTV, they saw the two women from the M&S incident in the footage.

They let their colleagues know and the trio – the women, both 35, and the man, 32, all from London – were arrested. They have been released under police investigation while enquiries continue.

Sgt Mark Collins, from the Bishop’s Stortford safer neighbourhood policing team, said: “Tackling purse dippings is one of our current neighbourhood priorities and we're working hard to identify offenders while also educating shoppers and businesses on how they can prevent incidents from occurring.

“While the majority of people who shop in the town do so without issue, it can be a very upsetting experience if your personal belongings are stolen. We’re urging people to take simple steps to help better protect their valuables while out and about.”

These steps include:

  • Never leave your bag or other belongings unattended while out shopping – this includes leaving it in a trolley or on a table in a café.
  • Make sure your bag is kept zipped up and carried in front of you at all times to prevent opportunist thieves from reaching in.
  • Keep your purse at the bottom of your bag so it is more difficult for thieves to locate.
  • Be aware of anyone acting suspiciously around you, especially at cashpoints or while using chip and pin machines. Always keep your PIN shielded.
  • Report any suspicious activity to shop staff or police straight away.

Sgt Collins added: “We regularly hold engagement events in the town to allow people to meet with local officers and get crime prevention advice. I’d encourage people to pop along for a chat and to pick up freebies, such as purse bells and card protectors, which can help prevent opportunist thieves from taking your belongings.”

The next 'Coffee with a Cop' event in Bishop's Stortford will take place on Wednesday, April 24 from 3pm at Marks & Spencer café.

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