Hang onto your wallet: muggings soar

Updated: 

vulnerable phoneCharles Rex Arbogast/AP/Press Association Images

The latest crime figures are out, and while overall crime is coming down, opportunistic street-theft and pickpocketing has gone through the roof.

So what's going on, and how can you protect yourself?

The figures

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of thefts from individuals went up an astonishing 10% last year. It's the highest annual rise in a decade. Muggings and robberies also rose 3%. Some commentators are pointing out that this is likely to be related to the fact we are carrying far more valuable gadgets around nowadays, and many thieves think the value of a stolen smartphone is worth the risk of being caught.

The British Transport Police says it pays to be on your guard at all times, but says that on public transport at least, Friday is the key date for thefts - particularly between 5pm and 7pm. They say that women make up the majority of victims, but that the growth of smartphone use mean men are increasingly being targeted too.

Tactics

The police highlighted the five ways pickpockets are most likely to strike. They say to beware of:
  1. Individuals acting alone who will use their jacket, newspaper or a bag to cover their hand as they lean into your bag or pocket and take your valuables.
  2. A group who will crowd around you and jostle you so that you don't notice the individual reaching into your bag.
  3. A gang attack, where someone will push you, someone else will block the pickpocket from view, and the third gang member will help themselves to your valuables.
  4. A distraction attack, where you will have a drink spilled on you and while you are distracted they will take your wallet.
  5. A bag slasher. In crowded trains and lifts teams of two to four will surround their target and cut the strap of the bag or slit the bag itself.

They say that if a pickpocket is determined, you can still lose your property, but that the following steps should deter 99% of criminals:
  • Keep purses secure, carry wallets in an inside pocket. Men should keep wallets in front pockets rather than rear ones.
  • Zip up hand and shoulder bags, and don't carry your purse or wallet in a shopping bag if it can be avoided.
  • Carry bags in front of you with the flaps against your body
  • Keep straps short and bags tucked under your arm. Handbags should be slung across your body
  • Don't display jewellery
  • Don't show your money, keep it safely in your pocket

It's also worth registering your valuables on www.immobilise.com. That way, if your property is recovered, you have a better chance of getting it returned to you.

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