Toronto police roll out 'Operation Jingle' — a low-tech way to prevent holiday theft

Officers from Toronto Police Service’s 41 Division were at the Eglinton Square Shopping Centre Friday morning to clip the bells to the wallets of women, particularly seniors.

Police hope the bells will jingle to alert shoppers their wallets are being stolen

A police officer holds one of the 'Operation Jingle' bells being handed out at the Eglinton Square Shopping Centre on Friday. (CBC)

"Operation Jingle" may sound like a new holiday movie, but in fact, it's a crime prevention initiative that rolled out on Friday in Toronto.

Officers from the Toronto Police Service's 41 Division were at the Eglinton Square Shopping Centre Friday morning to clip bells to the wallets of women, particularly seniors. They're hoping if someone tries to steal one of the wallets, the jingling will let the owner know they're being robbed. 

A bell handed out by police at Eglinton Square Shopping Centre can be seen clipped to a woman's purse. (CBC)

"It's a low-tech tool," explained Const. Mark McCabe. "We're targeting older populations ... going shopping who aren't being fully aware of their surroundings. Hopefully this will jingle enough to get their attention."

McCabe says the idea originated in the Britain. Last December police at 41 Division tried it out for the first time with "great success."

Const. Mark McCabe is a crime prevention officer with Toronto Police Service's 41 Division. (CBC)

"If it helps one person's wallet being stolen we consider it a success," said McCabe.

Jenny Kokkas is a senior who has experience being robbed. She was parked in a car with her purse in between the front seats. The thief reached in through the window, grabbed the purse and ran. The incident changed how Kokkas carries her valuables.

"I don't take any cards with me and I always carry my purse," she said.

Toronto police Const. Mark McCabe, left, shakes hands with Jenny Kokkas during the roll out of a crime prevention initiative called 'Operation Jingle.' (CBC)

Kokkas gladly accepted the bell from McCabe as he walked around offering them to mall goers sitting in the food court.

Distraction thefts

McCabe insisted the initiative wasn't meant to scare anyone, but rather to keep people cautious even though they may be in a festive mood.

"It's a time of year where we tend to be a little good natured, let our guard down, trusting of other people," said McCabe. "Unfortunately there is a segment of people who take advantage of that."

He said there are other types of thefts seniors in particular need to watch out for, called distraction thefts.

McCabe explains that people working in groups will hang around ATM machines. At the moment the cash is being dispensed one of them will distract the victim by telling them they've dropped something on the ground, and the others will take the money from the machine.

Online shoppers beware

Const. Caroline de Kloet said a person doesn't need to be in a mall or a store to have their purchases stolen. Online shopping can pose a problem if a purchaser isn't home to accept the package.

Const. Caroline de Kloet of Toronto Police Service's 41 Division. (CBC)

"If somebody's not home and it's left there, it's possible that parcel won't be there by the time you get home from work," she warned.

She also said if a person is thinking of leaving home overnight, that they should arrange to have a neighbour shovel the sidewalk and pick up the mail while they're gone.

"So it looks like somebody is at home all the time," de Kloet explained.