POLICE are appealing for information following more than 30 incidents of distraction thefts, including one near Basingstoke, in the past 12 months.

According to police, an Upton Grey man working in his front garden on Weston Road had his Rolex watch stolen after a woman grabbed his wrist.

Elderly victims are being targeted across Hampshire, and the police have now offered advice to prevent the crime.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said: “During each incident, the suspect – typically a woman – has targeted elderly victims in public places by pretending to ask them about a survey or a petition.

“They often use a clipboard as a prop to make themselves appear genuine. Once the survey has been completed, the suspects often compliment the victim and try to embrace them, with reports suggesting they may try to hug or kiss them.

“It is during this time that the item, usually a watch, is removed using sleight of hand techniques. The suspects are then spotted leaving the area in a vehicle. The desired target locations seem to be near golf courses and supermarket car parks. However, some offences have also taken place outside residential properties.”

One of the cases listed by police was in Upton Grey on April 8, this year. The man realised that he lost his Rolex watch 15 minutes after the woman left the area.

Police have also listed similar cases from Locks Heath, Yateley, Chandler’s Ford, East Wellow, Petersfield, Bordon and Emsworth.

Detectives are investigating the incidents and urging the public to report any offences immediately to help apprehend the offenders.

Police have also used the following advice:

  • When you meet a fundraiser in person, check their credentials – street collectors should wear an ID badge that is clearly visible
  • Most fundraising materials should feature a charity’s name, registration number and a landline phone number
  • If in doubt, ask for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer your questions
  • Register your property for free at immobilise.com
  • Photograph each piece of valuable gold or jewellery against a plain background with a ruler next to it
  • Keep a written description for each item
  • Jewellery can be forensically marked with a suitable security product. Always take specialist advice before marking expensive or irreplaceable items. You can find out more about traceable liquids at securedbydesign.com
  • Keep purses and bags closed and secure at all times
  • Be aware of your surroundings and what is happening around you when you are out shopping
  • Carry bags in front of you or diagonally across your chest
  • Return cards to your purse or wallet quickly and zip it up or button it
  • Use a purse that’s difficult for others to open – one that zips or snaps shut is best
  • Conceal your wallet in a buttoned or zipped pocket where it doesn’t bulge
  • Don’t hang bags on the back of your chair or a pushchair
  • Report suspicious activity in your area to police by calling 101 or online at hampshire.police.uk but in an emergency, always call 999.
  • Anyone with information relating to any of the incidents above, please call 101 quoting the reference number.