Surrey Police said they protected the identity of the crook who preyed on the pensioner because he is “not a risk to the public” and it made the video “more powerful”.
The force released the footage yesterday of Luilian Vinatoru stealing the wallet of an OAP outside a shop in West Byfleet, Surrey.
The 48-year-old from Leicester was fined £280 plus £125 in costs and compensation following the incident on December 7 last year.
But Surrey Police face flak after posting video of the crime on their social media page as a warning to the public but with Vinarotu’s face blurred.
Baffled viewers included Ricky Stedman who asked: “Why the f*** you hiding face! Stupid isn’t it?”
DK Towner, demanded: “Question… Why blur out the offender’s face?”
Steve Hair added: “Should show his face.”
Martin Abel agreed: “I agree with you Steve! Let everyone see so he can be named and shamed!”
Linda Goodey wrote: “You should show his face… what right does he have to not be recognised?”
Neil Farnham-Smith said: “Why blur the face. Shame that individual. Might make them think twice about committing crime in the future.”
Jennifer Riordan added: “Show and shame them! Stick their faces up on posters in the area.”
Karl Wilson wrote: “Name and shame and a photo.”
Candance Sam said: “Why is his face blurred out? He’s clearly got no shame in doing what he’s doing!”
Others were outraged that the pickpocket got away with a fine.
Helen Ireland said: “A fine won’t deter him he’s going to do again if it’s worth the fine, the gain must be more than a paltry fine.”
Ancy L Fenton added: “A fine? Thats not enough to stop this person!”
Susie Plowright wrote: “What a ridiculous fine he had to pay. Probably stolen more than that amount from unsuspecting victims over the last week.”
A force spokeswoman today insisted the decision to blur the criminal’s face was compatible with “normal media guidelines”.
She added: “Due to the type of crime commited he is deemed not a risk to the public and showing his face is not in the public interest.”
The spokeswoman claimed: “We feel the video is more powerful without showing his face, as it shows the public how easily it is for this type of crime to happen.”
The incident, which happened outside Waitrose in the town, resulted in Vinatoru being stopped by a security guard.
The video shows an elderly man wearing a blue jacket pushing a trolley leaving the store.
Vinatoru can be seen wearing a dark suit and holding a carrier bag whilst stood in a corner. He clocks the elderly man leaving the store, and starts to approach him.
The elderly man stops as Vinatoru comes up right behind him and sticks his left hand in the elderly man’s left pocket.
The elderly man appears look down at his shopping just as Vinatoru takes his hand out of the pocket clutching on to what appears to be a brown wallet.
Both men then walk off normally, with the elderly man seemingly oblivious to the theft.
The video is replayed and zooms in on the moment the wallet is stolen from the elderly man’s pocket. However, the police have blurred out the face of Vinatoru.
Surrey Police today added that their policy was not to identify individuals in CCTV unless they had received a prison sentence of over a year or if there was a significant threat to public safety.
Surrey Police responded to the criticism in a comment on the same post, writing: “The man was ordered by the court to pay a fine, and we have released the video to the public to highlight how quickly your personal belongings can be taken, and provide safety advice on how to protect yourself and your belongings.
“This matter has been dealt with by court, and our current policy is that custody images will be released if a person has received 1+ year’s prison sentence or more, or there is a significant threat to public safety.”