Manchester is the latest city to be hit by a rise in “hugger mugger” robbings.
Police said that during the festive period, 11 people were targeted by friendly criminals – who pretend to hug unsuspecting victims before swiping their valuables – during nights out in the Canal Street area of the city centre.
A CCTV still released by Great Manchester Police shows a hugger mugger in action – reaching into the back pocket of a partygoer for his wallet.
Other police forces have been recently warning revellers to be wary of hugger muggers. More than 160 cases of people having their wallets, jewellery and other valuables stolen in London’s West End in 2011 without force or violence, Scotland Yard said.
An anonymous victim spoke of his anger to the BBC after he had his credit card stolen by friendly strangers at a London bar: “I felt a bit stupid in a sense and naive that I'd actually allowed myself to get into that situation.”
Mancunian Stephen Chetwyn, 48, had his wallet stolen by a woman he believed was “just being sociable”. The nursing assistant was near a nightclub in the early hours when he was approached by the woman and two men.
Chetwyn told the ‘Manchester Evening News’: “The girl came up to me and hugged me for a few seconds. I didn’t realise she had put her hand in my pocket and taken my wallet until about five minutes later when they had all walked away.
“I thought she was being sociable and nice but obviously her intentions were the opposite. I feel quite angry about it.”
Sergeant Sarah O'Driscoll from Manchester’s City Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “We first started seeing hugger mugging in the City Centre in the summer and the number of incidents increased as we approached Christmas.
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“Officers are out in plain clothes every day in the city centre looking out for this type of crime and we work with the local authority to investigate incidents caught on CCTV. We have made a number of arrests but need victims to come forward.”
“Victims of this type of crime may not realise that they have been targeted, they may have had a few drinks and think that they have lost their phone or wallet. If you think that this may have happened to you then please contact us so we can bring the offenders to justice.”
For information on hugger mugging please contact the City Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team on 0161 856 3221. If you have been a victim of crime call 101 or in an emergency dial 999.