If you go to a downtown food court or restaurant, make sure your wallet, purse and other valuable belongings are in your view at all times.
Toronto Police 52 Division has issued this message following a spate of thefts in the last 18 months that have resulted in some victims losing thousands of dollars.
The incidents occur while victims are dining at restaurants and food courts.
Detective Constable Philip Gayle believes there may be at least three groups responsible for the thefts and debit-card fraud.
“Most people throw their coats or jackets over the back of their chairs when they are eating and are focused on the conversation with the person/s they are with,” he said. “While they are doing that, the perpetrators would sneak up and sit behind the unsuspecting victim and then just wait for the opportunity to put their hands in the jacket or coat pockets and take off with the contents.”
He said the victims’ credit and debit cards are used immediately to make purchases, using the tap feature.
In some cases, the security access codes are changed, permitting the suspects to make withdrawals and further purchases.
“They would go to the high-end stores like Apple and make purchases ranging from $80 to $15,000 in a very short period of time,” said Gayle.
He said that, every day, at least one wallet or purse has been reported stolen to the Division over the last 18 months.
“This has become an epidemic and we have to stop it,” added Gayle.
He reminded members of the public, who are dining downtown, to protect their valuables by having them in their view at all times.
“If you have to go to the restroom, ensure that your valuables are with you and not left in a coat or jacket hanging over a chair,” he said. “If you have to go and get your food, take your valuables because these people are just waiting for that opportunity to steal your property.”
Gayle also reminded patrons to protect their security access codes while making purchases.
Anyone with information is urged to call police at416-808-5200, contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), go online at 222tips.com, or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).