England – Beware of ‘Hugger Muggers” in the UK

BY Beth Williams

In the UK, especially in London, Camden, and Westminster, law enforcement has seen a definite rise in theft of wallets and cell phones by what are being calledhugger muggers.”   This type of crime is committed by pickpockets who appear to specifically target club-goers and late-night revelers.  The pickpockets, who are both men and women will walk up to someone either inside or exiting a bar or club.  The thieves pretend to befriend  or know the victim by walking up to them, saying something like “Hey mate, how are you doing?”, throw their arms around them and the next thing the victim knows is that they’ve had the phone or wallet stolen out of their pocket or purse. The “hugger muggers” often pretend to be drunk themselves and target people coming out of pubs and clubs in the early hours.

Other variations of this type of crime have included thieves who walk up and try to dance with you, play football with you with some small soccer ball that is being kicked on the street, so that the pickpocket can get close to you to take your wallet or cell phone.

 In Stockholm Sweden, another variation of this type of theft has been reported which police are warning residents about.  Stockholm police are calling these pickpockets “hug thieves” and like in parts of the UK, involves a gang of thieves targeting victims with seemingly harmless hugs.

Police in that area have reported reports of these types of theft have occurred to more than 20 victims – and there are very possibly many more who just have not notified police.  These passionate pickpockets give a strong hug or embrace without any greeting or warning, sometimes lifting them off the ground.  It is thought that a second pickpocket or thief, who scoped out the location of the valuables earlier, then empties the person’s pockets as the victim is being held.

The targets are usually young women on nights out but, according to Gunnar Thun of the Stockholm police, “Even men have fallen victim.” Speaking to the Metro, he added, “But in those cases, it’s more of an embrace or a pat on the back.”  The thefts have occurred over the past fortnight in the central districts of Gamla Stan and Södermalm, with mostly wallets and phones going missing. Police believe there may be as many as four members of the gang, as descriptions vary widely. Stockholm residents and visitors are being warned against getting too friendly with strangers.

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