Thieves target handbags in supermarket trolleys

Culprits strike after belongings left unattended in prams, shopping carts

Shoppers who have a habit of leaving their valuables in supermarket trolleys - beware.

Thieves are preying on supermarket customers, with at least 12 such cases reported this year. Most of the victims had their belongings stolen when they left them unattended while they shopped.

Last year, 11 cases of theft from trolleys and baby prams were reported between May and August.

Supermarkets have been ramping up their security and customer education efforts but for two victims, it was too late.

Applications manager Marie David, 40, who fell victim at Ang Mo Kio Hub's FairPrice Xtra earlier this month, said: "I turned my back for a short while to weigh the tomatoes. But it was too late. My bag got stolen.

"Mine was a backpack, and thieves usually target handbags, so I didn't expect anyone to be interested."

At the same outlet this month, Ms Nur Shahirrah Mohamed, 18, left her bag in the trolley while weighing apples.

"My bag was covered under grocery items but it got stolen anyway," she told The Straits Times.

Ms David reported the theft to FairPrice staff, who advised her to make a police report and gave her money to travel home.

Both victims had their bags returned to them after they were found abandoned in the vicinity. Items like cash, cellphones and ez-link cards were missing from the bags.

Last week, police said they arrested a 26-year-old woman believed to be behind a series of such thefts in Ang Mo Kio. But past cases have also been reported at supermarkets in IMM, Vivocity, West Coast Plaza and Serangoon Central. Another culprit was arrested last year.

A check with major supermarkets here found that most chains are taking preventive measures. FairPrice, Cold Storage, Sheng Siong and Giant supermarkets have put up posters warning customers to beware of thieves and keep an eye on their belongings.

FairPrice has plainclothes officers patrolling most of its stores, a spokesman said.

Sheng Siong also plays recorded announcements "about three times a day" reminding customers to take care of their valuables while shopping.

"We used to do it more frequently - 15 minutes or so - but customers have complained that it was irritating," said Sheng Siong assistant area manager Tham Wei Chong.

All supermarkets said they have closed-circuit television cameras, which police can use to access footage for investigations.

Said the FairPrice spokesman: "We can deploy security measures but the key is for customers to be mindful of their belongings."

kashc@sph.com.sg