Thieves targeting elderly women, predominantly on market days, are continuing to operate in Bury St Edmunds.
The recent spate of purse thefts in the town is of such concern that police officers are treating it as a priority, dedicating their time and resources to it.
Joan Dawson, 77, one of five women targeted last Wednesday, said the incident had left her feeling ‘ill’ and ‘frightened’.
She believes her purse, containing around £150 in cash, as well as bank cards, a bus pass and other personal items, was stolen while she was in a shop on Cornhill at around 11.30am.
“I was standing at the counter – my bag was on my arm and a woman came towards me and bumped into me,” said Mrs Dawson, who believes the ‘very polite’ woman distracted her by talking to her friend.
She said: “I went to pay for something and it (my purse) was gone. I just couldn’t believe it. I practically tipped my bag upside down because I thought I was being silly.
“I couldn’t think. I felt sick. I sat down and I said ‘I feel really ill’.
“It was such a shock. Your purse is such a private thing - you’ve got everything in there.
“I think it’s wicked they go for pensioners – that’s an awful lot of money to me. I think they’re the lowest of the low.”
Mrs Dawson’s purse had two bells attached to it, security devices that she had obtained from the police.
“They’re so clever to be able to bump into you and put their hand in your bag and grab your purse, especially with bells on it,” she said, adding that she was ‘frightened’ of being alone at home after the incident.
There have been three further purse thefts since the five reported last Wednesday. All the victims have been elderly women.
They are thought to have occurred in the Buttermarket and Cornhill areas of the town.
Inspector Jane Hertzog, local policing commander for Bury, said: “We would appeal for anyone with information about these thefts to come forward.
“These are particularly cowardly crimes, preying on more vulnerable members of our community and can be very upsetting for the victims.
“Combating purse thefts is a current policing priority for the Bury Central Safer Neighbourhood Team and, as such, we are committing extra patrols to the town centre.”
For a three-month period a mobile police station will be present on Wednesdays in Bury’s market.
The station will offer crime prevention advice to the public and will help to maintain a visible police presence.
Anyone with information should call 101 quoting reference BU/14/1586, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
Top tips to prevent purse thefts:
1) Wear a shoulder bag across the front of your body
2) Always keep your purse out of sight
3) Zip up your bag and keep it closed
4) Do not leave your bag unattended or on a shopping trolley or pushchair – hold onto it
5) If people push or bump into you check your bag immediately