Vancouver police are warning the public about a recent theft that is believed to be a part of a Roma crime group.
Just after 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 23, a man in his 40s was approached by a woman near East 33rd Avenue and Chester Street. After a brief conversation, the woman said she had a gift for the man and then placed a ring and a necklace around his neck. At the same time, she removed and stole his ceremonial necklace, which is valued at about $10,000.
The suspect is described as a woman in her 40s, heavy set, with olive skin and long, dark hair. She was wearing a long, brown dress and was last seen in a light grey Chevy Astro van with a male driver and a second female passenger.
The van is an older model with a wind visor on the hood, tinted windows, extended rear bumper and side runners. The rear passenger-side tire is white with wear and is missing a hub cap.
“Roma crime groups typically target individuals who wear gold earrings, necklaces and bracelets or rings,” Sgt. Jason Robillard said. “In many past cases, they have targeted elderly Asian, South Asian and Italian men and women.”
He said this is the only case like this so far this year.
"But based on the past, we believe these escalate quickly and we want to get in front of these types of incidents."
Robillard added that sometimes these types of thefts can go unreported, so there could be other victims who have not yet come forward.
"These aren't single incidents, they usually happen in a group and multitudes and sometimes they can even be classified as a robbery, so a little more serious... we believe that this could continue and we want to warn people right now."
In many cases, one or two thieves will approach a victim and overwhelm them by talking and placing fake jewelry around the victim’s head, neck or wrist.
“Slight-of-hand techniques are then used to take off the victim’s own jewelry, replacing it with fake jewelry, before fleeing in a waiting vehicle driven by an accomplice,” Robillard said.
“We're advise people not to permit anyone you do not know into your personal space, and tell anyone who tries to give you jewelry or place jewelry on you that you are not interested.”
If the situation escalates, try to draw attention and call 911 immediately.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about the latest incident to call investigators at 604-717-0613.