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Bury St Edmunds: Out-of-towners believed to be behind purse thefts

PUBLISHED: 15:35 24 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:35 24 July 2014

Community Support Officers Jaz Last (left) and Nicola Amey are on Bury Market offering advice about combating  purse thefts after a recent spate of them.

Community Support Officers Jaz Last (left) and Nicola Amey are on Bury Market offering advice about combating purse thefts after a recent spate of them.

Archant

Police believe the offenders behind a spate of purse thefts in Bury St Edmunds town centre are females of Eastern European origin who are travelling to the area from London.

Officers in the town are continuing to warn shoppers to remain vigilant after two further incidents on Wednesday, July 16, putting the number at 16 against women and one against a man since the beginning of June.

Victims range in age from 56 to 92, with the majority over 70.

The issue is a priority for police locally who have launched “Operation Wantage” to tackle the problem.

Speaking at a mobile police station at the market yesterday, Sergeant Davy Hill said the culprits were “criminally organised” and came from out-of-town.

He said generally he believed they came from London, hitting towns along the route, and thought the offenders were female and of Eastern European origin.

He said: “It’s a heinous crime against generally elderly females on a market day – Wednesdays or Saturdays – but we are finding primarily Wednesdays.”

He said there had been a spate of purse thefts a few years ago which the police put their energies into resolving and it ebbed away around Easter 2012.

Since the problem has sprung up again earlier this year, police are working on crime prevention.

The mobile police station will be at the market on Wednesdays until September.

And as well as uniformed officers at the market to combat the thieves, plain clothes officers are also carrying out covert surveillance.

Sgt Hill said: “I think we are making inroads. There’s a way to go. Our ultimate aim is to resolve and remove this problem.

“It went away for a long period of time. Why it’s resurfaced again I cannot say, but what I do know is they target vulnerable people. I would have to say maybe these people don’t have a conscience because that person could be their grandmother or grandfather.”

On July 16, for the first time in the recent spate of thefts, a man was targeted by the thieves.

The 73-year-old had his wallet and small change purse stolen from the open pocket of his jacket, thought to have been between 11.05am and 11.10am at a shop in Cornhill.

That same day, a 67-year-old woman had her purse stolen from an open-top shopping bag between 11.45am and 12.15pm, which is thought to have happened at a shop in Charter Square.

Inspector Jane Hertzog, local policing commander for Bury St Edmunds, said although these two incidents were a setback, the number of thefts was reducing.

Anyone with information should call the Bury Central SNT on 101.

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