POLICE are warning shoppers to be vigilant after a pickpocketing gang operating in Chester was jailed.
Five Romanian men were caught on camera targeting pensioners in the city centre before stealing an 81-year-old woman’s purse and making off.
But the gang was promptly arrested by police officers and all five were jailed for theft on Tuesday.
Sergeant Andy Burrage said: “For five grown men to target an 81-year-old lady who was on holiday in the city is sickening and not acceptable or tolerated in our city.
“DC Rob Marshall and PC Mel Sawojka worked a lengthy shift, which included conducting five interviews with interpreters before compiling the file of evidence, ensuring that within 24 hours of committing the offence these five thieves were in prison.”
CCTV operators picked up the gang following a tip off from British Transport Police that the men were acting in an anti-social manner at Chester Railway Station on Monday.
They followed the gang into the city centre, where they seen to target elderly people before approaching the victim and discreetly removing her purse from her bag before escaping.
Following the gang’s arrest, all five were charged were theft and convicted at West Cheshire Magistrates’ Court.
Sorin Curte, 27, Leonard Durac, 22, Joan Lucaci, 43, Durel Negut, 19 and 18-year-old Florin Salii were sentenced to three months in prison.
The money stolen from the pensioner was recovered and will be returned to her.
Sgt Burrage said: “This incident is an excellent example of agencies working together across the city, including British Transport Police, the council’s CCTV team and police.
“As we approach Christmas I would like to remind members of the public to be mindful of their personal belongings – particularly as the city becomes busier with Christmas shoppers – and to ensure that bags are zipped up and fastened.
“As ever, free jingle bells are available from the Town Hall police station which alert you to anyone interfering with your purse or bag and I would encourage anyone to call into the police station to pick some up.”