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Nine people have been arrested following a series of thefts whereby elderly members of the community were randomly approached in the street, distracted and then had items of jewellery stolen.
The offences took place across Wiltshire, as well as other counties, from February 2 to March 7 and involved suspects posing as charity workers and lulling victims into a false sense of security.
In one instance in Salisbury on March 1, a woman in her 80s was duped into handing over a small amount of cash by two suspects. One of the suspects then gave the victim a hug, at which point her necklace was stolen – although the victim didn’t realise until later.
In another instance in Melksham on March 6, two suspects approached the victim’s front door and rang the doorbell having followed her home.
The victim – again aged in her 80s – answered the door and the suspects distracted her by telling her they were collecting money for charity, talking to her and hugging her. While distracted, the suspects managed to remove the victim’s necklace.
Following a swift investigation and proactive enquiries, on Tuesday evening (07/03) officers from the Force’s Fortitude Team travelled to Slough in Berkshire to make nine arrests.
Eight people from Slough, including four women in their 20s, three men in their 20s, and a 17-year-old male from Slough, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal.
A man in his 20s from Birmingham was also arrested.
Several items of jewellery, a large amount of cash and two vehicles were also seized.
Earlier today (09/03), three females from Slough were charged with conspiracy to steal that related to thefts, burglaries and robberies in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Essex, and have been remanded in custody.
The other six have all been bailed while our enquiries continue.
Det Supt Ben Mant said: “Wiltshire Police will never tolerate this type of offending where some of the most vulnerable members of our community are targeted for their valuables.
“As well as a monetary value, the jewellery stolen has often had a significant sentimental value that would be impossible to replace.
“The incidents have had a lasting impact on the victims, breaching their trust and in the case of burglaries, invading their sense of security in the place where they should feel safest.
“I’d like to appeal to members of the public who have recently had an interaction similar to these incidents but may have only realised later that their jewellery was missing to please get in touch with us.
“We would always advise the public to, if possible, check if charity workers approaching you are wearing tabards branded with the charity they’re supporting, as well as a form of ID to ensure they are who they say they are and are representing a legitimate cause.”
If you feel you may have been a victim of this type of crime, please contact us on 101 quoting Operation Jewel.
Please see below a video from Chief Constable Catherine Roper on the arrests: