Hold onto your jewelry: Police in Vancouver, Abbotsford warn of spike in ‘distraction thefts’

Police in multiple Lower Mainland cities are warning people to be vigilant after seeing a spike in so-called “distraction thefts” targeting seniors and their jewelry.

The warnings were issued Friday by Vancouver and Abbotsford police, who said they’ve received a combined eight reports this week alone.

All of the incidents involved senior victims who had their expensive jewelry stolen and replaced by less expensive jewelry while the thief made physical contact with the victim, who wouldn’t realize the jewelry had been stolen until the thief had disappeared.

In Vancouver, police said they’re investigating six thefts that happened in South Vancouver between Wednesday and Thursday.

Sgt. Jason Robillard said the victims were all approached alone on a sidewalk or in a yard by a suspect in her 40s or 50s, described as short and heavy-set with a dark, olive complexion and a round face.

“We’re encouraging family and friends to tell seniors in our communities about this scam,” Robillard said. “We want to remind them to stay cautious if someone enters their personal space.”

Meanwhile, Abbotsford police are now reporting three similar cases this week, including one that had just happened Friday.

In all of those cases, police said a man and a woman in a vehicle targeted seniors walking in their neighbourhoods with their grandchildren.

The male driver reportedly stopped while the female passenger asked for directions to the hospital. After getting the directions, the woman left the vehicle and made contact with the grandmother, while discreetly removing their jewelry.

Both suspects have been reported as South Asian or Middle Eastern in appearance. The woman is described as 50 to 60 years old with a heavy build and black hair, while the man is described as 20 to 30 years old, also with black hair.

Surrey RCMP have also confirmed they’ve seen “several” reports of distraction thefts this past week, but would not provide any details.

Last year, police in Victoria as well as Metro Vancouver Transit Police had to hunt down suspects involved in multiple distraction thefts, which also targeted seniors and their jewelry.

Anyone who is approached by any of the suspects described by Vancouver or Abbotsford police is being warned to stay clear of them and contact police immediately.

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