A teenage girl is distraught after she was robbed of her change in a ticket dispensing scam at the Market Street Metrolink stop in Manchester city centre – police are warning travellers to be vigilant.
The 14-year-old girl bought a ticket from the machine, at around 8pm on July 7, but did not receive any change.
After ringing a Metrolink adviser, she realised a piece of Blu Tack had been placed into the change dispenser to stop the coins from dropping.
She removed the Blu Tack and received her change but at that point a gang of two men and a woman approached her and stole her money.
Detective Constable Dan Smith said: “This young girl was left absolutely distraught to have been robbed in this way – she was reduced to tears by the actions of these three offenders and members of the public had to help her.
“She was robbed of just £7 – a paltry amount – which makes the actions of the offenders utterly cowardly.”
The first man was described as being white, bald and wearing a hooded jacket. The other man was white, in his late 30s, of a spotty complexion and wearing a black hooded jacket.
The third offender was a woman, white, wearing a pink hooded top.
Three people – a 36-year-old woman and two men aged 37 and 39 – have been arrested on suspicion of robbery and bailed pending further inquiries.
Officers are also keen to speak to anyone who witnessed what happened, in particular a man and a woman, said to be Asian, who came to the young girl’s aid after the robbery.
DC Smith added: “I am appealing to anyone who witnessed what happened, in particular the man and the woman who came to her aid, to come forward.
“We believe the man and the woman who helped this distraught young girl could have valuable information so I would urge them to speak to us as soon as possible.
Metrolink director Peter Cushing described this intimidation of a young girl by a group of adults as ‘absolutely appalling’.
He said: “Outnumbering and intimidating a young girl to steal a handful of change is absolutely appalling behaviour, as is tampering with our machines in a blatant attempt to steal from our customers and I would encourage anyone with information to report it to the police.
“Our customer service staff are aware of these incidents and are monitoring stations and machines and while we are doing all we can to prevent further incidents I would urge customers to be mindful and vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.”
DC Smith was keen to assure the public and fellow tram users that Greater Manchester Police and Metorlink are working together to put an end to this scam but told people to ‘be vigilant’.
He said: “Police and our colleagues at Metrolink are working closely together to combat this scam which we know is in operation.
“Criminal groups place objects such as Blu Tack in the change dispenser so it blocks the change from coming out.
“When customers leave, the group return at a later time, remove the blockage and steal the change.
“I would therefore also urge people to be especially vigilant when using ticket dispensing machines and if you notice anything suspicious please report it.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Image courtesy of Mikey, with thanks.