Police warn senior citizens targets of ‘distraction theft’

(NewsNation) — Police in California are warning residents about a series of recent “distraction thefts” targeting elderly victims in the Los Angeles area.

Glendale, California, police posted a warning on social media and listed in a flyer more than a dozen incidents in the last three months.

In at least one case, a child is among the suspects.

According to police, suspects typically use a ruse to approach elderly victims by asking for directions or initiating a conversation.

A surveillance video captured a recent incident that appeared to be a friendly reunion, but on a closer look, an unsuspecting 84-year-old woman can be seen falling victim to a “distraction theft.”

“They pass by and all of a sudden they drive back again because they saw they can take advantage of elderly people,” said the son of the woman who was targeted outside her home while visiting with a friend.

A woman gets out of a car and can be seen on video striking up a conversation with the victim.

“A woman gets out, another woman gets out, a child gets out,” said Sgt. Victor Jackson with the Glendale
Police Dept. “There’s nothing to make her uncomfortable in that situation and that’s part of the scam.”

The suspect hugs the victim, then shows her some fake jewelry, even placing a necklace around her neck.

“The victim says I don’t want to buy a necklace,” Jackson says. “She says okay and she takes off the victim’s necklace instead of the necklace she put on.”

She leaves the victim with the fake jewelry but manages to remove the woman’s real jewelry without her noticing.

The stolen necklace was a “gift from my father who already passed for twenty years,” her son said.

The suspects also went after the victim’s ring.

“You see there’s a second female kissing the hand. When she’s kissing the hand she’s trying to manipulate the ring,” he said.

Police believe there are multiple crews on the move who specialize in “distraction theft” and are not just in southern California.

Authorities sent out a warning to residents in the Kansas City area just last week.

The latest warning out of Glendale will likely push the problem elsewhere.

“They’re gonna move to northern California, they’re going to move to Nevada, they’re going to move to Arizona,” Jackson said. “They continue to move and they’ll circle back to southern California later on once this story dies down.”

Police say arrests are tricky since “distraction” crews keep moving and often use stolen vehicles.

This warning comes amid concerns about the uptick in crime across the nation. In Chicago, some business owners and residents are so fed up that they’re preparing to flee downtown and move to the suburbs.

Among the safety tips recommended by police: Walk in groups, don’t wear jewelry on walks, keep jewelry hidden under your clothing, pay attention to your surroundings and look for vehicles and people who may be following you or seem out of place.

Report suspicious activity to authorities or call 911 for immediate response.


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