Handbag theft prompts CCTV call

THE victim of a brazen handbag theft believes CCTV cameras might have deterred the petty thief or at least given police a lead to work off.

A Murwillumbah resident, who has declined to be named for fear of reprisals after the loss of her handbag a week ago, has blamed the lack of security cameras for encouraging bag snatchers and even grocery trolley thefts.

Although some individual stores do have CCTV security cameras, she said others did not and cameras did not cover general pub- lic shopping areas.

The woman said she had taken out her wallet while buying goods at a store and put it with those goods in a trolley, forgetting she had left her handbag on the counter until she arrived at her car.

When she returned to the counter she was told a “helpful twenty-ish” wom- an had offered to take the bag and run after her to return it.

“These people are professionals,” the victim said.

“They are aware there are no security cameras. If they knew they could be picked up on security cameras they wouldn't do it.

“My concern is not just for myself - I've already lost my bag - but for elderly people who may be targeted.

“They need to be warned.”

Murwillumbah police inspector Greg Jago said handbag thefts in town shopping areas were “rare” as far as police were aware.

“Most of the individual stores do have their own closed-circuit television systems,” he said.

Insp Jago said police recommended what was known as “target hardening”- precautions which would ensure both individuals and businesses did not “stand out as being an easy target”.

He said this could be as simple as making sure a handbag was always wrapped around the owner's arm.

Insp Jago also pointed out Tweed Shire Council and the Murwillumbah District Business Chamber are about to install a network of security cameras covering the CBD and parts of Knox Park.

Under those plans, high-definition cameras will be used covering a wide angle which will pick up activities along CBD streets and at shopfronts.

Business chamber president Phil Youngblutt said even though Murwillum-bah was “the friendly town” people should take care with their personal belongings because there were still those “looking for an opportunity to just grab something”.

He said planned CCTV cameras in the streets and Knox Park would act as a deterrent to thieves.

“Given that the recording is going to be forensic quality, it should be really easy to identify people,” Mr Youngblutt said.

Last week North Coast police warned residents to also be careful when withdrawing money at ATMs following a spate of attacks near ATMs between Coffs Harbour and Ballina.

Police said a group was watching people enter their PIN before stealing their bank card.

The person would be distracted and their card stolen.

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