Edmonton rise in 'distraction' crimes prompts alert

Beware of people approaching you in the street with an offer of gold jewellery or high-end suits that seems to good to be true, warn Edmonton police.
Det. Emeric Derczen posed with fake gold necklace being sold on Edmonton streets last year. (CBC)

Beware of people approaching you in the street with an offer of gold jewellery or high-end suits that seem to good to be true, warn Edmonton police.

Investigators are seeing a rise in "distraction-style" crime in the Edmonton region they believe is the work of a group of transient thieves described as men and women with dark complexion and hair and with heavy accents that may be Eastern European or Middle Eastern. 

How distraction works

Two weeks ago an 88-year-old woman was approached by a man and woman at a west-end mall The woman placed a gold necklace on the woman saying it was “a gift from God." At the same time, she removed the woman’s own diamond pendant without her knowledge.

The thieves approach their targets – either to give jewellery as a gift or for sale at a substantially-reduced price. The victims’ jewellery is often switched or removed without them knowing. 

Of course the jewellery is not as billed, said Det. Emeric Derczen.

"Nobody reputable is giving away or selling gold jewellery, or anything else of value on the street,” he said.

So far this month police responded to 13 calls, but believe many more incidents are going unreported.

David Stetic called police about a slightly different scam. 

David Stetic called police after her was approached by different men offering to sell high-priced jackets out of their cars on two different occasions. (CBC)

Last Friday, Stetic was approached by two men in a south Edmonton parking lot who appeared to have a strong Italian accent. 

The men asked for directions to the international airport and offered to sell him high-end Armani jackets they had in their rental car so they wouldn't have to travel with them. 

Stetic said no. He became suspicious after hearing the same pitch two days later in a north Edmonton parking lot. 

 “Different individuals who happened to be looking for directions to the airport, who happened to be from Milan Italy, who happened to be here for fashion week who happened to be selling Giorgio Armani clothes," he said. 


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