Security Tips: Pickpocketing, Table Surfing and Snatches

Lately as we walk around the Colmore Business District you can’t fail to see that more people are out and about enjoying our fantastic hospitality venues and local attractions. There is a real vibrancy about the BID area, and it will only increase as we move into British Summer Time next week.

However, more visitors, warmer days and lighter nights also pose increased risks of opportunist thieves preying on unsuspecting victims. There is a potential for Theft from the Person crimes such as Pickpocketing, Table Surfing and Snatches increasing, so we want to raise awareness of this and provide some helpful guidance that will keep you and your valuables as safe as possible.

So let’s look at these types of crimes in more detail:

  • Pickpocketing/Purse Dipping: Offenders will try and take items such as phones or wallets from people’s pockets or bags without the victim noticing. Sometimes they work in teams where one distracts the victim whilst the other pickpockets them. These offenders are usually well organised and extremely good at what they do.
  • Table Surfing: Offenders will try and steal items from tables or chairs by distracting victims and using sleight of hand. An example of this is where an offender will approach a table at a bar, restaurant or coffee shop, identify a victim that has left their phone or wallet/purse on the table, then under the pretence of asking for directions on a map, cover and steal the property from under the map.
  • Snatches: Offenders will look for opportunities to snatch phones or bags from victims and escape before the victim is able to react. Bicycles, mopeds and e-Scooters are increasingly being used by offenders to commit this type of crime.

 Guidance on how to prevent these types of crimes:

The Colmore BID Security Team visibly patrol our business district to deter potential offenders and reassure our businesses, visitors and the general public. Our security team regularly conduct joint patrols with the Birmingham Local Policing Teams to keep our communities as safe as possible. Despite this, crimes can still occur, so we urge everyone to follow the following guidance.

  • Be situationally aware – When walking in our area, particularly early morning or late in the evening, please remain aware of your surroundings. If possible, keep your phone and other valuables hidden away from view to prevent criminals from spotting them. Consider walking around without headphones on, so your awareness levels are high and you have a better chance of hearing anyone approaching you.
  • Keep your valuables close to you – When in crowded places be aware of where your possessions are and try and keep an area of personal space around you. It’s preferrable to keep valuables out of sight and close to you in secure pockets or bags. Remember, professional pickpockets are skilled at stealing items from hard to reach areas so don’t be complacent and always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not leave any valuables on the table when drinking or dining – When sitting at a table, particularly outside, do not leave any valuables on the table, or leave bags hanging on the back of chairs. This can make you a target for table surfers. Staff in our bars, restaurants and coffee shops should be reminding you of this if they see a vulnerable situation.
  • Be aware of e-scooters, bicycles, and mopeds – E-Scooters, bicycles and mopeds are used in many ‘theft from the person’ and robbery offences. None of these modes of transport should be being used on the pavement so be aware if you see this happening. Listen for vehicles coming from behind and ensure that you are checking your surroundings regularly.
  • Plan your route – Plan your route when travelling to avoid needing to check your phone for directions. Plan the quickest and safest route (well lit, well populated). If possible, walk with someone you know – it will reassure you, increase confidence and reduce your vulnerability to victimisation.
  • Make use of the security features on your phone – Most phones have password or biometric functions, make sure these are in use to ensure that a thief cannot use your phone if it is stolen. Consider using  tracking software and apps that will allow family and friends to know your movements, and the police to locate your device if stolen. Our previously published guidance regarding the best apps to help you feel safe whilst out alone is available here.
  • Make a note of your phone’s IMEI number – You can check your phone’s IMEI number by dialling *#06#. Every phone has an IMEI number which helps the police and insurance companies to identify it if it is stolen. UK network operators can also stop a stolen phone from working across their networks with its IMEI.

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