A young family are believed to be the behind a spate of handbag thefts from cars – targeting lone female dog walkers in Leeds.
The couple and two young children have been spotted at the scenes of a series of car break-ins across the city in the last month.
Police said they masquerade as day trippers by parking up at popular picturesque destinations, including Golden Acre Park, Otley Chevin and Eccup Reservoir.
They then systematically prey on cars containing valuables that have been left by unsuspecting women taking dogs for a walk.
Insp Richard Coldwell, who is in charge of the Aireborough and Wharfedale neighbourhood policing team, said: “Anyone seeing them parked up in the car park would think they are an ordinary family on a day out in the country.
“Unfortunately under this guise of family anonymity they are waiting until unsuspecting victims arrive, watching them put their valuables into the boot and breaking into the car as soon as the victims are out of sight.”
Insp Coldwell said there were 10 incidents in the area his team covers – including Adel, Arthington and Otley – in October alone.
But he estimates the thieves may have been responsible for more than twice as many after hearing reports from other parts of Leeds and further afield.
Incidents have been recorded at every car park at Otley Chevin and both car parks at Golden Acre Park in Adel.
Cars parked on country lanes in Arthington have also been targeted. Insp Coldwell said similar crimes had been reported in North Yorkshire and on Ilkley Moor.
Plain-clothes officers were deployed at a number of car parks last week as part of an operation to catch the thieves.
A man and a woman, from east Leeds, were arrested near Otley Chevin, but were later released without charge.
Insp Coldwell called on people to be vigilant.
He said: “While our efforts to catch the thieves continue we are warning people to avoid falling victim by never leaving valuables in their car.
“Putting your handbag in the boot or your sat-nav in the glovebox or under a seat will not fool thieves if they have been watching you do it.”
Anyone with any information that could assist the investigation is asked to contact the NPT on 01274 471458.
Anyone who witnesses people acting suspiciously in any car parks should contact police on 101.