People out in Mansfield on Saturday night were approached in town centre bars and on Leeming Street by Fagin, the Artful Dodger and a pickpocket performer who has worked with the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil.
But the trio were not out to take anything from anyone and were working to provide advice and give away purse bells and mobile phone security leaflets.
The characters were part of the latest Mansfield Partnership Against Crime (MPAC) Night of Action, which saw the police, council, partnership team and BID deliver a range of activities additional to their routine work.
And the night returned some impressive results. The professional pickpocket spent time in four licensed premises, attracting the attention of groups by performing card tricks and then pointing out how this and other distractions could make them vulnerable to thieves.
Police officers accompanying him carried out checks in the premises and gave advice to individuals and groups about purses and bags left unattended.
Managers, door staff and bar workers in licensed premises were visited as part of the night of action by police licensing officers who reminded them about security and the need to keep an eye out for anyone who appears to be selling items that have been stolen.
Pro-active outdoor work to keep the town safe and free of anti-social behaviour saw Mansfield District Council wardens issue six fixed penalty notice tickets for urinating in the street and also move two people for breach of the Designated Public Place Order on the night.
Inspector Neil Williams, Vice-Chair of the MPAC Town Centre group, said: “Pickpockets working in town centres don’t look or behave like the characters we used, but the exercise proved very successful in making people think about personal safety.
“Street thieves tend to pick on those who make it easy for them by leaving bags unattended and carrying wallets, purses and mobile phones in places they can be seen and lifted from. We wanted to deliver this message with impact and we are pleased with the number of people who stopped to chat and who took purse bells from us.”
Marsha Mann, Community Safety Officer with MPAC added: “The night of action went very well, with the key messages being delivered and a number of other activities designed to reduce crime and disorder also proving extremely successful. Partners worked well together to deliver the work and we have had positive feedback from businesses in town about it.”
This was the second night of action in the town centre planned by MPAC; the first saw a road traffic accident staged to raise awareness about drink-driving. Further nights with different crime types as the focus are planned with the next scheduled for February.