Beware thieves, police warn Christmas shoppers

Petty thieves are always active in busy city and town centres in the days before Christmas, police said
Petty thieves are always active in busy city and town centres in the days before Christmas, police said

As shoppers throng city and town centres in the final days before Christmas, police have repeated warnings about the rise in petty crime at this time of year.

At the weekend, the son of BBC political broadcaster Mark Carruthers had his wallet stolen within seconds of having mistakenly left a shop without it.

Amid anecdotal reports of similar incidents elsewhere in Belfast during the festive period, the PSNI reminded the public to be vigilant as some seeming shoppers are merely there to steal.

James Carruthers, 20, from Belfast, was shopping in Sawers delicatessen on Saturday between 3.30pm and 4pm when he mistakenly left his wallet on the counter before leaving the shop.

Mr Carruthers, whose father, Mark, presents much of BBC Northern Ireland’s televised political output, also urged shoppers to be aware of the potential for falling victim to criminals.

He told the News Letter that he believes his wallet was stolen while he was in Sawers, the famous Belfast delicatessen.

“I remembered almost immediately and walked straight back in but in that short time, and I am talking about seconds, it was gone,” he said.

“I asked the shop assistant who had served me if she had seen anything, or if it was left on the counter, but she said nothing was there.

“The staff in Sawers were brilliant and took a really good look around the till. They stopped what they were doing, even though the place was packed, and tried to help me. But nothing was found.”

Mr Carruthers said the shop assistant who had served him thought he was accompanied by a young female, who was standing close by.

“The shop assistant thought I was with this girl who I didn’t know,” he said, adding that he believed she may have pocketed the item while the shop was “bunged with customers”.

He said his wallet contained £30, a driver’s licence, a student card and a bank card.

He added: “I am appealing for anyone in Sawers at the time I was there, between 3.30pm and 4pm, or who comes across my wallet, driver’s licence or student card to help me out by contacting the PSNI.”

When asked if there had been an increase in thefts across Belfast city centre, a PSNI spokeswoman said while theft has tended to increase around Christmas, she did not have access to statistical information on a Sunday and could not comment on current crime trends.

“With large numbers of shoppers and revellers out and about in the run up to Christmas, there will always be a few among that number who will attempt to exploit the crowds for criminal gain,” she added.

“It is wise to keep your possessions – money, phone, keys – on your person at all times and to be aware of your surroundings.”