TORONTO -- Police have laid more than 170 charges in connection with distraction thefts in York Region since October.

York Regional Police’s Criminal Investigation Bureau began a seven-week enforcement and education initiative targeting distraction thefts on Oct. 14.

During the seven-week period, officers identified 27 suspects and arrested 14 of them.

Warrants were issued for the remaining suspects, police said.

In total, investigators laid 176 charges and recovered more than $8,000 worth of stolen items.

In a news release issued Friday, police warned citizens to “be cautious” and employ the following safety tips:

  • Be cautious engaging with strangers in public, especially if they offer jewelry or gifts
  • Conceal your wallet, mobile devices and jewelry.
  • Keep an eye on your bag
  • Avoid carrying large quantities of cash and be mindful of people watching you at the bank
  • If you witness suspicious people or activity, contact police
  • If your credit card is stolen, cancel them immediately and then contact police

“Criminals are opportunists,” the news release said. “Don’t give them the opportunity to make you a victim of a crime.”

Police are urging anyone who believes they may have been a victim of a distraction theft to contact investigators or reach out to Crime Stoppers anonymously.