Purse-snatch gang preying on elderly

FEARS are growing that a gang of Eastern European purse-snatchers is operating in three market towns and preying on elderly victims.Suffolk police have confirmed an alarming increase in the number of such thefts in Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Newmarket, with nearly all the victims being elderly women.

FEARS are growing that a gang of Eastern European purse-snatchers is operating in three market towns and preying on elderly victims.

Suffolk police have confirmed an alarming increase in the number of such thefts in Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury and Newmarket, with nearly all the victims being elderly women.

Since November 2003, more than 180 elderly people have fallen victim to the thieves and in many cases the suspects have been described as being of Eastern European appearance.

Last month police investigating the thefts arrested five Bulgarian citizens, three of whom were deported from Britain and two handed a caution.


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Many of the crimes bear a striking resemblance and it is believed women, sometimes using young children to distract unsuspecting victims, are carrying out most of the thefts.

A large number of the offences have taken place in charity shops.

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Police investigating the thefts are now comparing the incidents in all three towns to see if they are connected.

A police spokesman said: “There certainly appears to have been a large increase in this type of crime in the past year.

“We do not always get a description, but it is fair to say that on a number of occasions the suspects have been described as having an Eastern European appearance.

“We are now examining analyses from across the county to see if the purse snatches are linked and how they are linked.

“We are trying to establish if the same group is responsible for these thefts or whether it is the work of several different groups.”

Since November 2003 there have been 96 purse thefts in Bury St Edmunds and 48 in Sudbury over the past six months.

Since November 2004, there have been a total of 45 purse thefts in Newmarket.

Police are now stepping up patrols in all three towns and will be strategically placing plain-clothes officers in the areas where most of the thefts have happened.

Les King, crime reduction officer for the Babergh district, said: “This certainly seems to be a developing crime that people are being fairly successful at, which means they are likely to keep doing it.

“Most of the victims are elderly women and most of the offences have been carried out by women, who have on some occasions been with young children.

“In Sudbury, around 80% of the thefts have happened in charity shops, so there is certainly a pattern of offending.

“In some cases the suspects have been of Eastern European appearance, but not all of them.

“I am certain a small number of people are involved in a vast number of cases.”

Anyone with any information should contact Suffolk police on 01473 613500.

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