Vancouver Police issue warning about recent distraction thefts

VANCOUVER Police are warning the public about a recent theft believed to be part of a Roma crime group.

On August 23, just after 5:30 p.m., a man in his 40s was approached by a woman near East 33rd Avenue and Chester Street in Vancouver. After a brief conversation, the woman said she had a gift for the man and then placed a ring and a necklace around his neck. At the same time ‎the woman removed and stole his ceremonial necklace, valued at approximately $10,000 (see photo).

‎The suspect is described as a woman in her 40s, heavy set, with olive skin and long, dark hair. She was wearing a long, brown dress. She was last seen in a light grey Chevy Astro van, with a male driver and a second female passenger.

The van is an older model with a wind visor on the hood, tinted windows, extended rear bumper and side runners. The rear passenger-side tire is white with wear and is missing a hub cap‎.

Roma crime groups typically target individuals who wear gold earrings, necklaces, bracelets or rings. In many past cases, they have targeted elderly Asian, South Asian and Italian men and women. One or two thieves typically approach a victim and overwhelm them by talking and placing fake jewelry around the victim’s head, neck or wrist. Slight-of-hand techniques are then used to take off the victim’s own jewelry, replacing it with fake jewelry, before fleeing in a waiting vehicle driven by an accomplice.

Police are advising people to not permit anyone they do not know into their personal space, and to tell anyone who tries to give them jewelry or place jewelry on them, that they are not interested. If the situation escalates, they should draw attention and call 9-1-1 immediately.‎ Investigators are asking for anyone with information regarding the latest incident to call Vancouver Police General Investigations at 604-717-0613.