POLICE have urged residents to avoid falling victim to 'handbag dipping' after a string of purse thefts in Bicester and Banbury.

Thames Valley Police has issued advice on how not to fall victim to the crime, where thieves remove purses from handbags left unzipped or unattended.

Bank cards are often stolen and can be used by thieves before the victim realises the purse has been taken.

Two purses were stolen in Bicester town centre last Wednesday, with one of the incidents believed to be a distraction theft.

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People can deter criminals with a range of steps, including carrying their bags in front of them, keeping valuable items hidden and never leaving bags on the seat next to them.

The warning also applies to West Oxfordshire, with purse bells available from Witney police station.

Crimes can be reported online, by calling 101, or by calling 999 if a crime is in progress.

Police advice to avoid 'handbag dipping':

• Keep your handbag on you, zipped with no valuable items such as mobile phones on display. Do not leave it unattended.

• Carry bags in front of you or diagonally across your chest.

• Return cards to your purse or wallet quickly and zip it up or button it.

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• In cafes and restaurants put your bag on your lap or on the floor between your feet with your foot on the strap. Alternatively place the strap through one leg of the chair.

• Look for ATM machines located inside buildings, supermarkets or other busy locations.

• Never leave your bag in adjacent seats in theatres, pubs or on public transport.

More personal theft prevention advice is available on the Thames Valley Police website at: https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/theft-from-a-person/pickpocketing/