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Philadelphia police seek Center City restaurant pickpockets

Police are trying to identify the group of people suspected of stealing from patrons' purses at Center City restaurants.

Philadelphia police say investigators believe the same trio -- two men and one woman -- is responsible for thefts at Metropolitan Cafe in Rittenhouse Square and Rice & Mix near Washington Square. Police released surveillance images and videos from the thefts today.

The most recent incident happened on Friday, when the group went to Rice & Mix, located at 1207 Walnut Street, at about 8:45 p.m., police said.

(See surveillance video here)

One of the men approached a 32-year-old woman, while the second man and the woman worked to distract the clerk.

While the victim was eating, the man put his jacket over her purse, which was hanging on the back of a chair, and took her wallet. The suspect then got up, had a short conversation with the other two suspects, then left the store, according to police.

Investigators think the group is the same one that stole a woman's wallet from her pocketbook at Metropolitan Cafe, located at 264 S. 19th St., on Sept. 20, then used her credit cards to buy more than $1,500 in gift cards at a Home Depot in South Philadelphia.

(See surveillance video here)

In that incident, police said, the woman stood behind the female victim and took the wallet, while the two men acted as lookouts.

Police describe both male suspects as black, about 40 years old, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall and having stocky builds.

In the first incident, one was wearing a flannel shirt and jeans and the other was wearing a light-colored shirt in jeans. In the second, one was wearing a blue Jeff hat, blue quilted jacket, dark blue sweater, jeans and white sneakers. The other was wearing a dark-colored baseball cap, dark North Face jacket and jeans.

The woman is described as black, about 40 years old, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, having a medium build and wearing glasses.

In the first incident, she was wearing a dark-colored baseball cap, light-colored shirt and jeans. In the second, she was wearing a dark baseball hap, dark North Face jacket and jeans.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 215-686-8477 (TIPS) or send a text message to 773847 (PPDTIP).

In December, police were on the lookout for, and warning residents about, pickpockets in Center City during the busy holiday season. Such offenses increased in Center City last year.