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York police warn public about ‘distraction’ crimes, release video of audacious patio theft

Police in York Region are warning the public to stay on the lookout for “distraction style” thefts after investigators turned up surveillance video of a brazen incident on a restaurant patio.

In the footage, a man sitting back-to-back with a woman at another table casually reaches into her purse and takes her wallet. The purse was hanging off the back of her chair.

The woman briefly turns around just after the man reaches into the bag, but he quickly stuffs the wallet into the front of his pants before walking away from the scene.

The incident happened during daytime hours on Sep. 25 in the area of Highway 7 East and Woodbine Avenue in Markham.

Police are seeking two suspects in connection to the theft. They are described as white males wearing Vegas Golden Knights and Toronto Maple Leafs baseball caps at the time of the incident.

In another recent string of distraction thefts, police say suspects have approached victims while placing fake jewelry around their necks and hands. During the encounters, the suspects “stealthily” remove the victim’s authentic jewelry.

York police say the perpetrators have been targeting elderly or vulnerable people, who they believe can be overwhelmed during the bizarre and unexpected interactions.

“They often act friendly and outgoing while distracting the victims during the thefts,” police said in a news release.

Police are reminding people to be cautious while talking to strangers, especially if they offer gifts, jewelry or try to initiate physical contact.

They are also warning people to conceal their wallets and other valuable items, and to keep personal belongings within sight.

“Criminals are opportunists,” police warn. “Don’t give them the opportunity to make you a victim of crime.”

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