Thieves masquerading as a family on a day out have been striking at beauty spots in Otley, Bramhope and Eccup.

Visitors to Otley Chevin, Eccup Reservoir and Golden Acre Park are being warned by police to be on their guard after a spate of car break-ins.

Police believe a man and a woman in a car, accompanied by two young children, are responsible for the crimes which have seen handbags, in particular, targeted over the last few months.

The suspects, pretending they are on a trip out, are thought to watch the unsuspecting victims – mostly women – put their valuables into their car boot before heading off for a walk.

Plain-clothed officers were sent out to the car parks last week in a bid to catch the thieves and a man and a woman from east Leeds were arrested near Otley Chevin but later released without charge.

Inspector Richard Coldwell, who heads Otley-based Aireborough and Wharfedale Neighbourhood Policing Team, warned everyone visiting the beauty spots to stay vigilant. He said: “The suspects are driving a nice family car and have two young children with them. Anyone seeing them parked up in the car park would think they are an ordinary family on a day out in the country.

“Unfortunately, under this guise of family anonymity, they are waiting until unsuspecting victims arrive, watching them put their valuables into the boot and breaking into the car as soon as the victims are out of sight.

“While our efforts to catch the thieves continue, we are warning people to avoid falling victim by never leaving valuables in their car.

“Putting your handbag in the boot or your sat-nav in the glovebox, or under a seat, will not fool thieves if they have been watching you.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the neighbourhood policing team on (01274) 471458. Anybody who spots anyone acting suspiciously in any park should call the police immediately on 101.