A DISTRESS call from a Cleveland restaurant owner has prompted a city-wide police search for opportunistic thieves.
Bay Breeze restaurant owner Lisa Tan rang police on Tuesday last week after her Middle Street cafe was robbed while she was inside.
Ms Tan left her post at the cash register when she heard a man yelling from the car park at the back of the restaurant.
"I went to see what he was upset about and he said his car had been stolen," she said.
"I told him I hadn't seen anything and when I went back to the cash register I realised my handbag and cash had been stolen.
"Someone had come in through the front door and taken the money while I was at the back trying to help the man."
Police warned small businesses to lock their back doors and be on the lookout for the sneaky thieves, who stole about $1000 in cash and Ms Tan's handbag and purse.
They are looking for a slim, caucasian man, about 185cm tall with a New Zealand accent.
He had a diamond earring in each ear and was wearing a hoodie. Police said the ruse was used elsewhere in Redlands.
They said an offender would walk to the rear of a shop or building and make a scene, yelling or talking to staff.
While staff were distracted, a second offender sneaks through the front entrance and steals cash or goods.
Distraction theft targets have included pedestrians at ATMs or people near unlocked cars or unwatched handbags.
Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.