Who’s looking over your shoulder?

Police warning follows spate of bar thefts.

If you’re going out over the weekend, make sure nobody’s looking over your shoulder when you go to pay at the bar.

That’s the advice from Birmingham Police following a number of thefts where people have had their wallets stolen and cards used, after thieves saw them enter their pin numbers when paying for drinks.

Known as ‘shoulder surfing’, officers are currently investigating around seven offences, which have taken place across the city recently.

PC Mat Evans from Birmingham’s dedicated pickpocket investigation team said: “We believe these thefts are being carried out by an organised group in trained teams of around three or four people. They will visit crowded bars and clubs and loiter near to the bar area, looking like they are waiting to order drinks. However, they never get served and let genuine customers cut in front of them. This is because they are waiting for them to enter their pin number and when they see this is about to happen, the thieves will crowd in on the victim, so as many of them as possible can see it. Once the number is memorised, they then keep an eye on that person for the rest of the night and wait for an opportunity to steal their wallet and bank cards.”

After the theft, the group will then use the cards to withdraw cash, cigarettes and alcohol. The recent thefts in the city have seen thieves make off with more than £3,150 through this method.

“That’s an average of around £450 profit per theft”, said PC Evans. He added: “Unfortunately, it does seem women are the main target of the group’s activities – perhaps because it is easier to steal a wallet from a handbag than a pocket or, because they think there will be less confrontation if they are caught in the act. We are doing all we can to catch these thieves and our undercover spotters are out in force in the city’s clubs and pubs to try and identify the crooks in action.

“There are a few tell-tale signs to look out for though and we would urge people to be vigilant. Women pickpockets will often have silk scarves tied to their handbags – which they can use to cover their hands so their thieving can’t be seen – while men will often carry a jacket draped over their arms for the same reason.

“The thieves will be acting out of character to everyone else: they will be watching those around them intently, hardly dancing and getting unnaturally close to their targets, bumping into them to distract them. We’d also ask people to guard their pin numbers at all times and not be afraid to raise any concerns they have with staff should they see anything suspicious.”

Four men and one woman from two addresses in Handsworth were arrested on 3rd September in connection with the investigation. They have been released on police bail while inquiries continue.

Anyone with information about the recent thefts in the city centre can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.