'Swarming' incidents, where gangs enter stores in large numbers in order to distract shopkeepers, have increased dramatically in recent months. The rise follows similar patterns of activity and a number of arrests made in 2002 and 2003.
Derbyshire Police recently revealed that more than 80 offences involving tricksters distracting shopkeepers had taken place in the county in the past five months. Detectives said that while arrests had been made and two people were due in court charged with a distraction offence at Edensor Post Office, Matlock, they believe a number of groups are operating not only in Derbyshire but across many parts of the UK.
Detective Inspector Angela Briggs said: "Police forces are sharing information to try and track down all the offenders and stop this type of crime. These travelling groups use a number of methods to steal or con people out of their hard-earned money and on some occasions they have got away with thousands of pounds."
West Midlands Police investigating a number of swarming incidents in the region also warned retailers to be on their guard, adding that they were working with communities to raise awareness of the crime.
Convenience Store has been contacted by a number of retailers keen to warn fellow shopkeepers of the tactics involved.
Manoj Chhibba had a lucky escape when he spotted a group acting suspiciously in his Coventry newsagents. "The moment I saw them I thought, 'I'm not playing' and escorted them out," he said. "They went back to a vehicle which had blacked out numberplates, so they were obviously an organised gang."