British Columbia

Police warn public about distraction thefts in Greater Victoria parking lots

Police say several victims have been approached by a man who tells them they have an issue with their vehicle tire and they are then robbed while inspecting the damage.

Victims told sharp object is stuck in their tire, wallet is then stolen when they inspect for damage: police

West Shore RCMP and the Saanich Police Department are working together to identify two suspects, pictured here June 4 at the Uptown Shopping Centre in Saanich, who are believed to be running a distraction theft scam in Greater Victoria parking lots. (Saanich Police Department)

Police in Greater Victoria are warning people to be vigilant in parking lots after several reports of distraction thefts this month.

Both the Saanich Police Department and the West Shore RCMP issued public alerts after three women had their wallets stolen in a similar fashion since Friday.

Officers believe two men are working together to distract and then rob their victims.

Their modus operandi has been to have one man approach a vehicle and tell the driver a sharp object is stuck in one of their tires. When they start inspecting the damage, another man moves in unseen and steals their wallet.

"We believe they are watching for women carrying a purse or pack while returning to their vehicle, as they know it will be left unattended inside while they distract them," said Const. Markus Anastasiades in a statement.

The first reported incident happened June 3 at Broadmead Shopping Centre, where Saanich police say a woman's wallet was stolen around noon.

On June 4 at around 2 p.m., Saanich police say a second victim had returned to her vehicle with a young child after shopping at Uptown Shopping Centre when a man knocked on her window and told her something was wrong with her tire. When she got out, she saw thumbtacks stuck in it.

When the victim got back into her car, police say she noticed her wallet, which had been on the front seat, was gone.

Connected crimes

Just an hour before the alleged Uptown robbery, a victim was also targeted in Langford, B.C., which prompted West Shore RCMP to issue a release asking for the public's help identifying suspects.

That alleged robbery happened in a retail parking lot in the 800-block of Langford Parkway where once again a woman was told by one suspect there was a sharp object in her tire while another suspect entered her vehicle and stole her wallet while she was distracted.

Police believe the Langford victim was followed while she was shopping so the thieves could try to learn her PIN number. Money was stolen from the victim's account using her bank card.

Police said CCTV footage of the Langford parking lot shows a man putting something in the victim's tire and then approaching her window to get her attention. It also shows a second suspect entering the other side of the car.

West Shore RCMP have released this image of one of the suspects leaving a store in Langford. (West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP and Saanich Police Department are working together to track down the suspects. This image was also captured in Langford. (West Shore RCMP)

West Shore RCMP Const. Meghan Groulx said in a release that police believe the incidents in both municipalities are related.

"If you are approached by a stranger and you feel it is suspicious or similar to this report, please do not engage and contact the police," said Groulx.

The Langford victim says the man who approached her had olive-coloured skin, was about five feet, eight inches tall and weighed approximately 160 pounds. He reportedly spoke with an accent.

Anyone with information about these suspects, or anyone else who has been scammed, can contact West Shore RCMP at 250-474-2264 or the Saanich Police Department at 250-475-4321. For anonymous tips, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.