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24th April
Updated from time to time

New breed of criminal hugs and mugs

So-called 'hugger-muggers' have been targeting pub and club-goers in London's West End, according to Sky News. Groups of pickpockets have pretended to be drunk and then embraced people as their long-lost friends, stealing their possessions and passing them to accomplices in the process.

As yet nobody can think of an appropriate or pithy rhyming couplet that can be applied to the accomplice.

Police around the UK have been alerted, and already they have discovered that different variations of the ploy occur in different parts of the country.

Readers on Tyneside can expect the 'Raidin' Blaydon'. "Groups of ne'er do wells will 'race' at you, embrace you as though a long-lost drinking buddy and then steal your tabs from under your T-shirt sleeve," warned PC Dibble Mullet in Newcastle. These offenders are also known as 'sleeve-thieves'.

In this author's home city of Liverpool hordes of scallies known as 'Moyes Boys' have already been seen. "This group corner you while you're having a quiet pint, ask you if you're a Red and then yell 'we coulda wonda European cup if it wasn't for use' over and over," reports Inspector Ramsbottom of Merseyside Police. "They then relieve you of your possessions because you have either a) killed yourself out of boredom or b) fallen asleep out of boredom."

Scots should meanwhile look out for 'Mel's Hells'. These bright and colourful assailants charge at the unsuspecting reveller and cajole them into joining the next war of independence (or, sometimes, the SNP). In their eagerness to sign up and the ensuing kerfuffle they are relieved of their belongings. The victims are also easy to spot as they are heard to be muttering 'bloody lying Sassenachs...' as they troop away. It is only later they realise they have been stitched up by their fellow countrymen.

In Lancashire and the surrounding areas, the would-be thieves are known simply as 'Mancunians'.

The head of the Metropolitan Police in Westminster, Steve Allen, has launched a seven-week campaign called Operation Tiffanie. It will target crime and anti-social behaviour in central London over the summer holidays, in particular 'hugger-muggers'.

He said there are around 50 incidents of pick pocketing each week in Westminster - a quarter of these are being blamed on 'hugger-muggers'. The other three quarters he couldn't comment on until a dumbed-down sound-bite/phrase could be thought of. "We're working on that and an accomplice tagline," he said.

"One of the key messages is that the police can do their part and the public need to do their part, too," he added. "People could just stay in. Or not be so stupid. If they do go out they could just drink orange or apple juice. Or water."

Quizzed about events outside of London he looked flummoxed. "Outside of London? By that do you mean other countries?" he said, looking pale and sweaty.
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