REVELLERS in pubs and nightclubs are being targeted by pickpockets stealing mobile phones straight out of handbags and coats.
The thieves stole 40 mobiles in city centre nightspots in just five days, with the “vast majority” being iPhone 4s and 5s.
Some of the handsets – which cost around £500 – were stolen after they were left unattended. But most were swiped from bags being held by the victim.
Police believe the rash of thefts are linked and are urging revellers to be on their guard.
Sergeant Kevin Rafferty, of Police Scotland, said the pickpockets struck at ten different venues between Wednesday, October 30 and Sunday, November 3.
He said: “Edinburgh remains a safe place to enjoy the nighttime economy. However, criminals continue to operate throughout the Capital and it is important that the public take all necessary steps to ensure they are not targeted.
“Handbags and coats should never be left unattended while within a pub, club or restaurant. Where possible keep them within your possession or check them into a cloakroom where they will be supervised.
“When walking to and from pubs and clubs and when on your way home always be aware of your surroundings and report anyone acting suspiciously around you to police.”
Police said that the “vast majority” of the 40 stolen mobiles were iPhones, with Samsung and Blackberry makes also proving popular with thieves who quickly sell them on.
The venues hit were The Hive in Niddry Street, El Barrio in Hanover Street, Silk in Kings Stables Road, Cav in West Tollcross, Opal Lounge in George Street, Mood in Picardy Place, Fingers Piano Bar in Frederick Street, Biddy Milligan’s in the Grassmarket, Three Sisters in the Cowgate, and Banshee Labyrinth in Niddry Street.
Colin Wilkinson, secretary of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “Licensed premises in Edinburgh want people to enjoy their visit and be safe. I think licensees and staff treat this a major priority and are careful to provide security. But people need to take responsibilty for their own possessions.”
Last October, police revealed many stolen phones are exported to Africa, fuelling a multi-million pound booming black trade. The warning came as figures revealed nearly 3000 phones were stolen in the Capital last year alone .
The popularity of smartphones, iPods and tablet computers was also blamed for a 16 per cent increase in robberies last year. The surge saw police launch Operation Arable in a bid to clamp down on street robberies, targeting hotspots for muggings.
THIEVES have used a variety of sneaky tactics to make off with mobiles.
Last December, a thief stole handsets from coffee shop tables while pretending to advertise tourist attractions to customers.
The man collected flyers from a tourist information centre to use in the “distraction” thefts carried out in George Street and Hanover Street.
Another thief, known as “Metro Man”, was notorious for coming into city hotels trying to sell copies of the free paper to unsuspecting tourists, putting a copy down on tables before stealing their phones now concealed underneath. Another city centre thief used a fishing line and hook to “catch” victim’s bags on the floors of bars and restaurants to steal their phones and other possessions.