Thieves Find Bars An Easy Source Of Phones & Bags

Council draws attention to increase your vigilance when out & about

Visitors to the borough’s pubs and bars are being reminded of the need to remain vigilant and keep their bags, phones and other valuables safe following a spate of thefts.

Thieves have been stealing bags that have been left hanging on chairs or hidden under tables. They have also been targeting valuables like mobile phones and wallets that have been left in coat pockets that are often also hung on the backs of chairs.

The thieves are finding easy pickings by swooping while people are distracted either whilst chatting to friends or visiting the bar.

Detectives also believe that some thieves are targeting people’s bank cards after watching them withdraw money from cash machines or paying for drinks using hand-held card terminals.

Officers suspect that thieves are ‘shoulder surfing’ people and watching as they enter their PIN number into the machines. Having learned the number they then follow them and look to steal their bank cards.

The warning comes from the borough’s community safety partnership and follows a sudden rise in reported thefts from licensed premises, most notably in Clapham Junction and Putney town centres.


To reduce the chances of falling victim to thieves people should:


  • Keep bags and coats in sight at all times. Hiding bags under tables is not recommended.


  • Not leave mobile phones unattended on tables


  • Avoid whenever possible leaving bags or coats hanging on the backs of chairs  


  • Be on their guard when keying in PIN numbers at cashpoints or into hand-held payment devices. Prevent “shoulder surfing” by making sure no-one can see your PIN.


The council’s community safety spokesman Cllr James Cousins pictured left said:
“Being aware of the problem and keeping vigilant is bound to make it harder for criminals. This is especially important in some of the more bustling and busy pubs and bars. This advice will no doubt become more important when the weather improves and people are more likely to use outside seating areas, where it is easier for passers by to quickly grab valuables and then melt away.”

Supt David Chinchen of Wandsworth police said:
“Given the time of year, this is a timely reminder to people about keeping their property safe and secure when out and about. Unfortunately there are a minority of criminals who will take advantage of crowded places to steal valuables whilst people are distracted. Whilst our operations to tackle this type of theft are continuing, we are asking people to be alert to the problem and take some basic precautions.”

One precaution people can take to safeguard their mobile phone is to make a note of its unique IMEI pin number. If the phone is stolen and later recovered by police then the officers will know immediately that it's been stolen and can return it to its rightful owner.

The IMEI number will also provide the police with evidence that the person who has the phone will have either stolen it or be guilty of handling stolen goods.

People who wish to make a note of their mobile phone's unique IMEI pin number can find out what it is by keying in *#06# on their handset.


April 14, 2011