(KMOV.com) -- St. Louis area police say criminals are trying to blend in at businesses to steal from the stores, and from customers.
According to police, thefts of laptops, smartphones and other personal belongings are happening at hospitals, retails and restaurants when criminals blend into the crowd.
"The guy in the tie doesn't necessarily mean he's a professional," said Rob Silver, manager of Layla's restaurant in the Grove. "He just put a suit on and walked in. Whereas the guy in a t-shirt might not be a criminal, he's just off that day."
City Boutique, just down the street from Layla's, has also seen an increase in this type of crime.
"You want to make sure everybody is comfortable when they come in. You don't want to stand around them. You don't want them to feel that you are watching them."
Here is the full alert sent to businesses and community leaders in the ninth district, which includes Midtown, Forest Park SE, and portions of the Central West End:
9th District Business and Community Leaders,
We wanted to make you all aware of an increase in “crimes of opportunity” occurring over the last several months in many areas wherein people are leaving their personal belongings (particularly cell phones) laying around on desks, tables and bar tops.
As you all know, for years we’ve reminded the public not to leave valuables in sight within the cabin of your vehicles, or to look around and pay attention to those who may be watching you place a purse, laptop or the like in your trunk before walking away from your auto.
What seems to be the new trend however is the criminals are now making the attempt to blend in to their surroundings.
They’ll frequent places that are open to the public like restaurants, bars, hospitals or a busy office building and sit around giving the appearance that they’re just like you and me and they belong there. They might give you the impression they’re just having a cup coffee on break from a busy day of work or relaxing while shopping. You sit down with your laptop, iPad, cell phone, etc. and relax with no thought of someone watching you with an eye on your property. You’re feeling comfortable with your surroundings, so you decide to leave your table to grab something to-go or use the restroom before leaving…and when you return, your property is gone.
We in law enforcement have had several opportunities recently to view video from hospitals, office buildings or restaurants after an incident has occurred and we’ve watched this new breed of opportunist walk into a workspace or over to a table and pick up what they want and walk away as if it was theirs in the first place; nothing to make them stand out from the crowd.
We would like you to share this information with your employees and coworkers; look around, pay attention to your surroundings, don’t place yourself into a false sense of “it won’t happen here”. Keep your valuables, especially purses and cell phones with you at all times. Train your staff to ask customers to keep these items in their possession without leaving the property on tables, bars or desks.
These types of crimes are preventable with some help from you. We look forward to working with you to continue our mission to make our neighborhoods safe and pleasurable.
Captain James E. Moran
Commander, District Nine