Purse thieves sought in St. Johns County

Women targeted outside day cares, fitness centers, parks

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Deputies in St. Johns County are continuing to warn about a crime trend involving crooks watching women in busy parking lots.

Several more purses have been stolen from cars outside day cares, fitness centers and parks in St. Johns County.

Deputies have just released pictures of women (below) who then used what they found in those purses to drain the victims' bank accounts.

Deputies said women should never leave their purse in their car. And hiding it in the backseat covered with a jacket doesn't work either.

According to investigators, crooks are watching women get out of their cars without their purses and waiting until they walk away before breaking into the cars in broad daylight.

"They're taking a window punch and putting it right here, and it shatters the window," said Detective David Garns.

Purse theft survey

He said it happens in 10 seconds or less.

Bank surveillance pictures show women who then use stolen driver's licenses, bank cards or checks from the purse to withdraw money from the victim's bank account.

"They will have females use wigs and makeup to disguise themselves as the victim," Garns said.

And they use the outermost lane of the drive-through so the teller can't get a close enough look to see that the woman withdrawing money is using a stolen driver's license.

The trend has been going on in northeast Florida since early 2013. In one previous instance, a woman had $11,000 withdrawn from her account. Another had $3,000 taken from her account when her purse was stolen from the parking lot of an Arlington elementary school in January 2013.

"The person has the same color hair as I did, looked like me a little bit," the victim said.

The bank teller had no idea it wasn't her.

"Mothers are busy, juggle a lot. They have a lot going on," said Sgt. Catherine Payne, of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. "Most of the time they leave their purse, run into the store real quick, get what they need. That's when they're targeted and victimized."

Before leaving the house, think about what you're going to do with your purse when you get to where you are going.

Payne suggests just taking what you need, such as your driver's license, bank card or cash, and stick it in your pocket.

Anyone with any information about the thieves' identities is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 888-277-TIPS.

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