Police warn businesses of criminals blending in to steal from customers

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 10:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 26 at 10:40 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Police are tracking a new crime trend where criminals are attempting to blend in at businesses in order to steal. However the targets aren’t businesses, but customers.

Authorities recently sent out an alert to businesses in the Ninth District, which includes Forest Park Southeast, Midtown, and portions of the Central West End, urging them to remind customers to watch laptops, smart phones and any other personal belongings left out in the open.

“We’ve watched this new breed of opportunist walk into a workplace or over to a table and pick up what they want and walk away as if it was theirs in the first place,” said the warning. “Nothing to make them stand out from the crowd.”

Thefts are happening at hospitals, retailers and restaurants. In all the cases, business owners say looks can be deceiving.

“The guy in the tie doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a professional,” said Rob Silver, manager of Layla Lebanese Restaurant. “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.”

Gretchen Wilkes, Manager of City Boutique just down the street from Layla’s, says it’s tough to balance caution with business because employees never know who’s walking through their front door.

“You want to make sure everybody is comfortable when they come in,” she said. “You don’t want to stand around them. You don’t want them to feel that you are watching them.”

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