Distraction thefts continue to be a public safety issue in Vancouver. Thieves typically target elderly people in residential neighbourhoods. They tend to surprise or distract the victims to steal jewelry, money or other items of value.

In Vancouver, distraction thefts increase during the summer months. They can be difficult to investigate, as the thieves are usually long gone before the victim realizes what has happened.


A person approaches you and starts touching you. They may grab your arms or wrists, or give you a hug. You may be surprised by this behaviour, and during the encounter you might not notice the thief removing your jewelry or valuables.

A person approaches you, possibly trying to overwhelm you with fast, loud, and enthusiastic talking. They show you fake jewelry, placing it on your neck or wrists, removing your authentic jewelry and leaving you with the fake pieces.

Someone stops you and asks you for help. They may want directions or ask where the closest hospital is. They might say they need money urgently and offer to sell you their jewelry for cash. The jewelry ends up being fake.

Protect yourself and help investigators

  • Don’t let strangers into your personal space or let them touch or hug you.
  • Remain vigilant at all times – even when watering your garden or simply going for a walk.
  • If you feel like you are being targeted by a thief for a distraction theft, yell or make a lot of noise to attract attention.
  • If you feel someone is acting suspiciously, call 9-1-1. If you can see the license plate on the car belonging to that person, memorize it or write it down, and give it to police.
  • If you have been the victim of a distraction theft, call 911 immediately. If you wait to call police, the chances of police finding the suspects decrease significantly.

What to watch out for

In almost all cases, the thieves are travelling in a car with others, and they quickly leave in the car after the theft. Sometimes, they may also have a small child or baby with them.