A POLICE operation has reduced so-called ‘bank follow-off crime’ by 75% in Ealing.

The crime involves stealing money from vulnerable people as they are leaving banks.

The Met initiative, known as Bank Safe, involves officers patrolling in areas most affected by thefts around banks.

They also raise awareness among customers of tactics used and make a detailed study of CCTV, from which repeat offenders are identified and arrested.

Typically, one thief will loiter inside a bank to identify victims, who are then pickpocketed by their accomplices. This type of crime is often under-reported.

Estimates suggest that up to 66% of victims are over 60.

Sgt David James, who leads the Bank Safe project in London, said: “Distraction theft is a very personal crime that often has life-changing impacts on victims.

“In most cases, victims do not know they have been targeted and tend to blame themselves for losing their hard-earned cash.

“Since the start of the operation, we have seen a decrease in some boroughs and intend to work towards a further reduction.”

John McGeachy, Age UK London said: “With older people more likely to bank in person than other age groups, it’s particularly insidious to target them in this way as they leave the bank with their cash.

“Being a victim of this, or any other type of crime can have serious consequences for people’s confidence and mental health.”

Bank Safe was set up in 2022 in response to the increased level of follow-off crime.