Police are appealing for information and offering crime prevention advice following a spate of luxury watch distraction thefts and robberies across the county in the past year.
During each incident, the suspect – typically a woman – has targeted elderly victims in public places by pretending to ask them about a survey or a petition.
They often use a clipboard as a prop to make themselves appear genuine.
Once the survey has been completed, the suspects often compliment the victim and try to embrace them, with reports suggesting they may try to hug or kiss them.
It is during this time that the item, usually a watch, is removed using sleight of hand techniques.
The suspects are then spotted leaving the area in a vehicle.
The desired target locations seem to be near golf courses and supermarket car parks. However, some offences have also taken place outside residential properties.
During the last 12 months, more than 30 incidents have been reported to us. Victims are predominantly targeted because they are wearing high value Rolex watches.
Some of the incidents are as follows:
21/01/21 – Waitrose, Locks Heath (44210024288)
An elderly man was approached by a female and asked to sign a petition for a deaf charity. She grabbed his left hand and the man later noticed that his Rolex watch was missing.
18/02/21 – Waitrose, Yateley (44210061865)
An elderly couple had completed their shopping and were putting it in the car when a female approached them with a clipboard and asked them to give her some information. The suspect tried to kiss the man and grabbed his arm, before removing his watch.
8/04/21 – Weston Road, Upton Grey, nr Basingstoke (44210132217)
A man was working in his front garden when he was approached by a female. She grabbed his wrist and 15 minutes later he realised his Rolex watch was missing.
18/05/21 – Waitrose, Chandler’s Ford (44210191837)
An elderly man was approached by two women who asked him to sign a petition relating to children. The victim obliged and was hugged by one of the women. He later discovered that his Rolex watch was missing.
25/05/21 – Wellow Golf Club, East Wellow (44210202702)
A man was parking his car in the golf club car park when an unknown woman approached him and asked him to sign a piece of paper and engaged in discussion. He later realised that his Rolex watch was missing.
05/06/21 – The Square, Petersfield (44210219105)
A man was walking along Petersfield High Street when two unknown women approached him. They had a clipboard and were asking for signatures for a petition. One of the females grabbed the man around the wrist and he later realised his watch had been stolen.
19/07/21 – Blackmoor Golf Club, Bordon (44210286098)
An elderly man was unloading his golf equipment when he was approached by two women. One had alleged hearing difficulties and they wanted him to sign a petition regarding the building of a facility for disabled people in Farnham. They hugged him and stole his Rolex watch.
20/09/21 – Orange Row/South Street, Emsworth (44210378258)
A man was approached by two women dressed in a nurse’s type of uniform. They claimed to be collecting signatures for a deaf centre. While signing the document, one gave the man a hug while the other grabbed his left hand. One tried to kiss the man but he broke away, and they walked off quickly. A very short while later he went to check the time, to find his watch was missing.
Detectives are investigating the incidents and we would like to remind people to be on their guard following the reports over recent months.
Police are urging the public to report any offences immediately to help apprehend the offenders.
Police would also like to take this opportunity to remind people of what they can do to help protect themselves:
- When you meet a fundraiser in person, check their credentials – street collectors should wear an ID badge that is clearly visible
- Most fundraising materials should feature a charity’s name, registration number and a landline phone number
- If in doubt, ask for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer your questions
- Register your property for free at immobilise.com
- Photograph each piece of valuable gold or jewellery against a plain background with a ruler next to it
- Keep a written description for each item
- Jewellery can be forensically marked with a suitable security product. Always take specialist advice before marking expensive or irreplaceable items. You can find out more about traceable liquids at securedbydesign.com
- Keep purses and bags closed and secure at all times
- Be aware of your surroundings and what is happening around you when you are out shopping
- Carry bags in front of you or diagonally across your chest
- Return cards to your purse or wallet quickly and zip it up or button it
- Use a purse that’s difficult for others to open – one that zips or snaps shut is best
- Conceal your wallet in a buttoned or zipped pocket where it doesn’t bulge
- Don’t hang bags on the back of your chair or a pushchair
- Report suspicious activity in your area to police by calling 101 or online at hampshire.police.uk but in an emergency, always call 999.
Anyone with information relating to any of the incidents above, please call 101 quoting the reference number.