Men arrested and charged following increase in St Albans purse dipping offences

Four men have been arrested following offences in St Albans

Four men have been arrested following offences in St Albans - Credit: Archant

Four men have been arrested and charged following an increase in purse dipping offences in St Albans.

Eleven people in the last month have fallen victim near St Albans city centre after they were distracted by thieves, who removed cards, wallets, and purses from handbags or jackets.

PC Ben Kirby, of St Albans Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “The techniques have included standing behind victims when they are using cash machines and distracting them by alerting them to a faulty machine, indicating they have dropped something, or waving money in front of their face.”

He added that some of the thieves asked victims for directions and then distracted them by showing a large map.

A couple in their 80s were targeted outside Natwest Bank on March 4 when someone allegedly recorded the woman’s PIN number before telling her the ATM didn’t work.

They then allegedly stole her bank card and withdrew £250 from her account at a different cashpoint.

Another man in his 60s was also allegedly targeted a few minutes later at Lloyds Bank in Chequer Street. £500 was withdrawn from his account.

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Four men were arrested in connection with these two offences: Idris Habib, 20, of Illford, Hassan Habib, 29, of Bethnal Green, Said Huhawish, 68, and Abdul Naim, 19, both of Plaistow.

They have since been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, theft, and possession of criminal property.

In a separate incident, also on March 4, a woman’s handbag was stolen from underneath a toilet cubicle at the town hall in Market Place.

An iPhone was taken from another woman on February 22 while in Morrison’s on Hatfield Road.

A Herts police spokesperson said the Safer Neighbourhood Team are cracking down on these crimes by increasing high visibility and covert patrols in the area.

PC Kirby continued: “Crowded public places like shopping areas and busy pubs can attract purse dippers because they can steal personal items without you even knowing about it.

“Don’t give them the opportunity. Currently people are most at risk when using their card either at a chip and PIN machine or a cash ATM – please be mindful of who is around you. A well-meaning person may have an ulterior motive.”

He added that the police need assistance from the public to help stop these offences. PC Kirby said: “We need to help protect our elderly and vulnerable community and their personal possessions. Please let us know descriptions of the offenders so we can put a stop to these crimes and make purse dippers unwelcome in St Albans.”

If you see someone acting suspiciously call the police on 999.