Distraction Theft

Who Is The Target Of Distraction Theft?

Victims of distraction theft are often chosen 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.

Distraction Theft

How Does The Offender Approach The Victim

The suspects generally travel as a group, in a vehicle or on foot, usually with a male, female and sometimes a toddler. This makes the suspects seem less suspicious. They may drive or walk around residential neighbourhoods, shopping malls, parks or approach you at bank machines where they will distract you by spraying you with ketchup or mustard.

They may even flatten your tire as a pretense to get you to stop your vehicle, where they will take advantage of this situation to offer “help” as an excuse to get close to you and your jewellery.

The suspect then walks away leaving the victim confused, not realizing that their property has been taken.

Reduce The Risk Of Being A Victim

  • Avoid showy/flashy displays of jewelry

  • Take the safest route possible. Avoid shortcuts 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

  • Walk 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”


  • If you do not feel safe or are in need of assistance, flag down a passerby, car or taxi

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

If You Are A Victim Or Witness of Distraction Theft

If you realize that you have been a victim or witness 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 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 identify and recover your property

  • If your valuables do not have serial numbers, consider ‘marking’ your property in a unique way with a Trace Identified pen

Crime Prevention Tips

  • If you are wearing expensive jewellery, ensure that it is properly affixed and not easily removed

  • If possible, conceal your jewellery under clothing

  • Be wary of strangers who do not respect your personal space or touch you in any way

  • If someone is close enough to put a necklace on you, THEY ARE TOO CLOSE!

  • Walk with a friend whenever possible

  • Be aware of who is around you and report any suspicious or criminal incident immediately to the Police or anonymously to Crime Stoppers

Suspect Description: (only record what you remember)

  • M /  F: 
  • Ethnicity: 
  • Age: 
  • Height:
  • Build:
  • Weight:
  • Clothing Description: (ie: shoes, pants, shirt, jacket, hat)
  • Additional: (jewelery, tattoos, scars, complexion, deformalities)
  • Face: (ie: wrinkles, ear size, nose shape, eye size and colour, eyebrow shape)
  • Vehicle: (make, model, plate, colour, damage)
  • What was said? Was there an accent?:


To report a crime anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-8477(TIPS) or online at: www.222tips.com

In An Emergency: Call 9-1-1.

To report a crime to the Toronto Police that is not an emergency call 416-808-2222.

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