As the Christmas shopping period fast approaches, we’d like to urge members of the public to be extra vigilant following a spate of purse thefts.

Our towns and shopping centres are likely to become increasingly busy over the coming weeks and it is important that shoppers are aware of their surroundings and can take steps to help prevent their risk of falling victim to opportunistic thieves.

Recent incidents have been reported around the Regent Street and Havelock Square areas of Swindon.

In one incident, a woman in her 70s had her purse stolen while she was shopping in Regent Street on October 26.

On October 28, a woman in her 30s had her purse stolen from her bag which contained bank cards, cash and vouchers.

And then on October 29, a woman in her 80s had her purse stolen while shopping in Regent Street. Her bank card was then used to withdraw cash on a number of occasions amounting to £500.

A/Sgt Annabel Martin said: “Although it is only October, many people will have already started their Christmas shopping and our town centres are likely to start getting busier. It is often during busy occasions that we see an increase in these types of incidents.

“I’d like to urge residents using cash machines to always be aware of who is around them when withdrawing cash, stand close to the machine and always shield your PIN. The same goes for paying for your shopping at the tills – make sure you put your card and money straight into your purse before walking away, and ensure your purse is at the bottom of your bag, with the bag clasp facing inwards.

“It is also worth considering using a purse strap to secure your purse inside your handbag – this will make it difficult for someone to discreetly remove your purse from your bag without you noticing.

“Incidents of this nature are understandably upsetting for the victims and we want to try and reduce the number of reports where possible. Please help us by taking reasonable steps to keep your belongings safe.

“Over the festive period, officers will regularly patrol the town centre – if you see anything suspicious, please approach an officer, call 101 or 999 if a crime is in progress.”