Thieves shop for the distracted in busy supermarkets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 October, 2004, 12:00am

More and more thieves are targeting supermarket shoppers and police statistics show most manage to evade capture.

Police in West Kowloon said the number of thefts from shoppers in the district's supermarkets had increased from 26 in 2002 to 86 last year, with 69 such thefts in the area so far this year.

But in the two years since September 2002, only 26 of these cases had been solved because many of the thieves escaped with the valuables before the victims realised they had been stolen.

'Thieves often target those who have left their bags on the trolleys, and strike when the customers look away to select goods,' Chief Inspector Sandra Chui Yui-luen said.

Many thefts occur between 5pm and 8pm, when the shops are more crowded.

Bigger supermarkets with more customers are more vulnerable for the same reason.

'High-risk areas [in supermarkets] include the fresh food stalls, the frozen meat sections and places selling sushi, because customers there often occupy themselves with checking the quality of the food carefully and neglect their belongings on the trolleys,' the chief inspector said.

The police have worked with major supermarkets to enhance security, setting up closed-circuit cameras at strategic locations and regularly broadcasting warnings telling shoppers to take care of their belongings.

Stickers reminding shoppers not to leave their valuables unguarded have also been placed on the carts.

'Plain-clothed and uniformed police officers have been deployed near supermarkets [as well],' the chief inspector said. Both Chief Inspector Chui and ParknShop's public relations manager, Teresa Pang, said it was important for customers to stay alert.

Eva Wong, who was shopping at a supermarket in Festival Walk, agreed.

'I'm the only one who can take care of my stuff,' she said. '[Fellow shoppers] would not pay any attention to my belongings as they are all busy shopping themselves.'