Stay Alert and Prevent Distraction Theft

Distraction thefts are an increasing concern, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department wants to educate residents on how to identify and prevent this type of crime. Distraction thefts occur when criminals use a variety of techniques to catch their victims off guard, pull their focus and then proceed to steal personal items such as jewelry, wallets or other objects of value.

Thieves may approach victims asking to help carry groceries or looking to sell jewelry. They may ask for directions or local restaurant recommendations. In some cases, thieves may even appear empathetic and offer a prayer or a hug to their victim. Most often, these criminals work in pairs or groups in retail center stores and parking lots. While one is distracting the victim with conversation, the others are committing theft.

The Sheriff’s Department encourages residents to employ simple techniques to stay safe. While we live in a safe city and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with living in our close-knit community, it is still important to be vigilant.

  • Be alert: If someone you don’t know approaches you to have a conversation, be aware of your surroundings and your valuables.
  • Be mindful: Only carry what you need. Opt for handbags that zip securely and never leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart. If you don’t carry a handbag, always keep valuables such as wallets, cash or cell phones in your front pocket.
  • Protect your personal space: Never allow a stranger to get close enough to place their hands on you. Always keep a safe distance while talking to someone you don’t know, and never allow anyone to place items such as jewelry or other accessories on you.
  • Be selective: If you need assistance carrying items to your vehicle or loading groceries into your car, always ask a store employee for help. Be wary of accepting help from those you don’t know.
  • Stay secure: Once in your vehicle, immediately lock your doors. If someone approaches your window to ask directions or a question, it is best to only roll your driver’s side window down enough to have a conversation.
  • Be assertive: In some cases, thieves will talk fast and loudly and infiltrate your personal space quickly. This plays into their distraction tactics. If someone gets too close, even if they seem like they are offering help, loudly and clearly say “no” to draw the attention of others.

If you are a victim of distraction theft, it is important to report it to the Sheriff’s Department at 949-770-6011. If you are witnessing a crime in progress, always call 9-1-1.

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