A “dramatic” rise in purse thefts is spelling Christmas misery for shoppers in Motherwell town centre.
Elderly and disabled people are being targeted by what police believe are organised criminals.
Undercover officers have been drafted in to Brandon Parade and shoppers are now being offered ‘purse bells’ to deter thieves.
PC Brian Ratcliffe revealed: “Over the last eight weeks we’ve had 15 purse thefts reported in Motherwell town centre which is a dramatic increase.
“People affected include the elderly and disabled. Shoppers are carrying a lot of money in the run up to Christmas and so losing a purse causes a lot of distress.
“Although it’s only cash the thieves are interested in, purses often contain family photos which have sentimental value,”
Police believe the those responsible are coming from outside the area in a bid to avoid detection.
PC Ratcliffe added: “We don’t know if it’s an individual or a team, but whoever is involved is very organised and I’m urging shoppers to be wary.
“The scenario is someone will bump into a person carrying a bag to cause a distraction, say sorry and dip into the bag. The victim doesn’t know anything about it until she’s looking for her purse at a shop till.”
Shoppers are advised to keep their purse at the bottom of the bag which should always be zipped up.
PC Ratcliffe said: “I want to stress to people that we are aware of this problem. There are uniform police patrols in the town centre and plain clothes officers are also being used as we try to get to the bottom of it.
“CCTV is being monitored as well and I would ask anyone with information about these thefts to contact us or Crimestoppers.
“In addition, we are getting supplies of purse bells and if anyone would like these they should call 101 or approach me in the town centre. ”