Security Tips » Distraction Theft

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Victims of distraction theft are chosen predominantly because they are elderly, trusting and may speak little or no English. The offenders generally target people who are walking or sitting alone in public or on their own property. The offenders look for exposed jewellery or may just assume their target is likely wearing it.

The main property targeted by distraction theft offenders is expensive jewellery. However, wallets and course contents are also vulnerable to this type of offence.

The suspects generally travel as a group, in a vehicle or on foot, usually with a male, female and a toddler. this makes the suspects seem less suspicious. They drive or walk around residential neighbourhoods, shopping malls or parks in search of victims.

The offender, usually a female, will distract the victim with a troubled story or pretend to be extremely happy. At this point, the offender may kiss the victim’s hand or give the victim a hug. During the hug, the offender removes the victim’s jewellery and at around the same time, places fake jewellery around the victim’s head, neck or wrist. The suspect then walks away leaving the victim confused, not realizing that their property has been taken.

For more information on Distraction Theft, visit the Toronto Police Service Crime Prevention website at

Crime prevention tips

  • If you must wear expensive jewellery, ensure that it is properly affixed and not easily removed.
  • If possible, conceal your jewellery under clothing.
  • Be wary of strangers intruding your personal space and touching you in any way.
  • If someone is close enough to put a necklace on you, THEY ARE TOO CLOSE!
  • Do not walk alone or in isolated areas (alleyways, parks, etc.), especially while wearing visible expensive jewellery or while in possession of property which will attract criminals.
  • Be aware of who is around you and report any suspicious or criminal incident immediately to the Police or anonymously to Crime Stoppers.

Reduce the risk of being a victim

  • Take the safest route possible. Avoid short cuts and deserted areas; try to keep to well-lit and populated streets. Walk on the side of the street that gives you the best view.
  • Walks with a purpose and be alert/aware of your surroundings.
  • If you are suspicious of someone and they are not leaving you alone after you have asked them to, draw attention to yourself by yelling “stop following me” or “leave me alone.”
  • Flag down a passerby, car or taxi if you do not feel safe or are in need of assistance.
  • If you need help, remember that all 9-1-1 calls are free of charge and can be dialled from any payphone.

If you realize that you have been a victim of distraction theft and the suspect is still there or in sight, for your safety, DO NOT CHASE OR FOLLOW THE SUSPECT. Call 9-1-1, the Police emergency number, immediately. The faster the Police are able to respond, the better the chances the suspect(s) will be arrested.

  • Try to memorize suspect(s) information including physical and clothing descriptions, especially tattoos, scars and other prominent features, and any suspect vehicle information or description. This is very important information when the Police arrive and the suspects are no longer on the scene.
  • Keep records of your valuables and take photos. Note all serial numbers, the quality/value. engravings and distinguishing markings. Keep that information in a safe place at home. This information can help the Police cover your property.
  • If you valuable do not have serial numbers, consider ‘marking’ your property in a unique way so that it is identifiable.

If you are a victim, or a witness, of distraction theft, report the incident to someone you trust:
  • IN CASE OF EMERGENCY or a crime in progress, call 9-1-1.
  • To report a non-emergency crime, call the Police at (416) 808-2222.
  • Talk to a trusted family member.
  • To report anonymously, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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For more information on Distraction Theft, visit the Toronto Police Service Crime Prevention website at