Ladies, hang onto your purses! Longview Police Department is cautioning women about being careless with their purses when shopping or loading their purchases into their vehicles afterward.
Since Dec. 23, Longview police have responded to at least five purse snatching incidents that have occurred both day and night.
Four of the five reported incidents happened outside stores when the women were loading their purchases in their vehicles. In all those cases, the women had left their purses in the shopping carts.
“In one incident. surveillance video shows the suspect watching people as if looking for opportunities to steal,” said Captain Deborah Johnson. “By being more aware and safe guarding our property, we can make it more difficult for criminals to commit crimes.”
Purses have been stolen outside Fred Meyer, Safeway and Walgreens on Ocean Beach Highway and WinCo in the Triangle Shopping Center. The incidents occurred between the hours of 1:19 p.m. and 11:16 p.m. None of the thefts occurred during a weekend.
One incident happened inside Fred Meyer while a woman was shopping in the men’s department on Dec. 23 around 11:16 p.m. The woman told police her purse was in the shopping cart and she turned away briefly. When she looked at her cart again, she saw a man walking off with her pink purse. The woman chased the man out of the store and across the street behind Hung Far Lo. A Fred Meyer employee recovered her purse in the staff area hallway.
Based on reports from the victims and witnesses, the suspect is a man possibly in his early to mid-20s wearing a hooded jacket and/or dark clothing riding a bike. In all cases, the victims were walking alone when their purses were snatched.
It is unknown if the incidents are related, but police are investigating the possibility.
Most recently, police responded to Fred Meyer Tuesday evening shortly before 6 p.m. after a man on a bike stole a 61-year-old woman’s purse from her shopping cart as she put her purchases in her car. A witness said the woman started running after the purse snatcher, then jumped into her car and followed him before he disappeared.
Police are offering these safety tips.
1. Keep only one credit or debit card in your purse. Do not keep your Social Security card with you.
Create a list of what is in your purse, including copies of your credit or debit cards, and keep it in a safe place at home. If your purse is ever lost or stolen, having this information handy will make it easier to provide account numbers to police, banks and credit card companies.
2. Have your keys with you rather than in your purse as you leave a store.
3. Do not leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart for even one second inside or outside a store.
4. If you carry a purse, be sure to hold it close to your body so that it cannot be easily grabbed. If you are wearing a coat or jacket, consider wearing your purse under rather than over your outerwear so that it is not visible.
5. Be aware of your surroundings when you leave a store and walk to your vehicle. If you see a suspicious person who just seems to be hanging around, trust your instincts and avoid that person. If you feel uncomfortable walking to your car alone at night, ask if the store can provide an employee to escort you to your vehicle.
If it makes you feel safer, ask a family member or friend to go shopping with you.
6. If you witness suspicious activity, call police immediately via 911 and provide a good description of the suspect or suspects. Tell the dispatcher the suspect’s gender, race, approximate age, height, weight and clothing. Hair color and style is also helpful. Make note of any tattoos, scars or other identifying marks.
If the person is on a bike, describe it by color and style.
License plate numbers and vehicle descriptions are crucial information if the suspect leaves in a vehicle. Also, let the dispatcher know in which direction the suspect left.
Go to http://www.womensdefensecenter.com/purse.htm for more safety tips.
People with tips about the purse snatching incidents are encouraged to contact LPD Patrol Investigator Nicholas Woodard at 442-5800 or CrimeStoppers at 577-1206. CrimeStoppers offers money rewards for people who provide information leading to the arrest of criminal suspects.