The Edmonton Police Service is investigating a recent rise in distraction-style crimes across the city, and is warning the public to be extra vigilant if approached by strangers with an offer too good to be true.
So far in October, 13 incidents have been reported and police believe that the same group of transient thieves are responsible. Approximately 90 incidents have been reported since May 2013, and police fear that there may be additional victims who have not reported these crimes.
Typically the thieves target elderly individuals who are alone and vulnerable. The thieves approach the victims about jewellery – either to give the jewellery as a gift or to offer it for sale at a substantially-reduced price. Victims’ jewellery is often switched or removed without them knowing. Victims have also purchased jewellery that is stamped 14/18 karat, only to find out later it is nothing more than costume jewellery. Of concern to police is that in some of the recent incidents, victims who were not interested, or had resisted, were assaulted and robbed.
- On Sept. 27, 2013, a 57-year-old man was walking through a Mill Woods mall parking lot when he was approached by a male who was selling gold jewellery. When the man declined, he was allegedly robbed of his wallet at knifepoint by the male who then fled the scene in a vehicle.
- On Oct. 3, 2013, a 35-year-old man was approached by a male and female in a car while at a gas station on Mill Woods Road. The couple was reportedly selling gold jewellery to raise money to travel from Vancouver to Montreal. A small child was seated in their car. The male allegedly purchased several gold necklaces and gold rings from the couple only to learn later they were fakes.
- On Oct. 7, 2013, a 79-year-old woman was working in her yard in the area of 114 Street and 134 Avenue, when she was waved over by a male and female in a car. The occupants of the car allegedly bound the woman’s hands with two gold chains while they removed her 24-karat gold bracelet, and then fled the area.
- On Oct. 8, 2013, an 88-year-old woman was walking in a west-end mall parking lot where she was approached by a male and female in a car. The female exited the vehicle and placed a gold necklace on the woman. She embraced the woman and said the necklace was “a gift from God for her.” She then allegedly removed the woman’s own diamond/gemstone gold pendant without her knowledge. The jewellery switch was only realized when the victim returned home.
The suspects are described as being adult males and females, with dark complexion and dark hair, and heavy accents that may be Eastern European or Middle Eastern. The suspects are believed to be travelling throughout Alberta.
“We want people to be cautious if approached by strangers trying to give or sell jewellery, and to report this suspicious activity to police as soon as possible,” says EPS Det. Emeric Derczeni. “These crimes typically revolve around gold jewellery, cash, and distraction-style thefts. If you are approached, realize that you could be a potential victim of a theft or scam. Nobody reputable is giving away or selling gold jewellery, or anything else of value on the street.”
Anyone with information regarding these distraction-style thefts is asked to contact the Edmonton Police Service at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm.