They are targeting establishments where women typically leave their purses in their cars: the gym, the daycare, the ballfield, jogging trails, dog parks, Zumba classes, churches, hospitals, and places where children play.
Who are they? A group of suspects who are operating statewide with the same mission: rent a car, put temporary window tint stickers on it, pull up next to a parked car, open the door to conceal yourself, look in the car for a purse left behind, punch a hole in the victim's car window, grab the purse, and head to the nearest bank drive-through window to cash the stolen checks.
Where are they operating? All over the state of Florida.
As you can see in the attached videos, all it takes is 60 seconds for your money, and your identity, to be stolen.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office and local law enforcement agencies are partnering with agencies across the state to combat this trend. Our goal is to educate the public about the trend, and to issue a warning to people everywhere - DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PURSES OR PERSONAL BELONGINGS IN YOUR CARS!
The suspects seen in the attached videos (who remain unidentified and at large) pull into the parking lots of two different local businesses, back up to or block the victims’ cars, look for a purse, smash the victims’ windows, and drive off with the victims' identities. Both videos were recently turned over to PCSO detectives - two separate cases, same type of crime. Both crimes took merely 60 seconds to commit - and both could have been prevented.
"These thieves are targeting women's purses, laptop cases, smart phones, and briefcases that are left behind in parked cars. The message is simple: Don't make it easy for thieves to steal your money, and your identity. DON'T leave your personal belongings in your car! We know this is an organized group of suspects working in Polk County and we need YOUR HELP to identify them. There are other groups working just like this throughout the state, doing the same thing. We need YOU to be our eyes and ears in the community to help us identify these criminals.” – Sheriff Grady Judd
Attached are pictures of three female suspects known to be involved in this trend. These photos were taken at local banks. Some of the female suspects use wigs when going through the bank drive-through lanes in an attempt to conceal their identity. In fact, these three pictures may be of the same woman, with different wigs.
On Saturday, August 11, 2012, an off-duty PCSO deputy who is aware of this trend saw a suspicious car pulling away from another car with a broken window parked at a ballfield lot. The deputy followed the suspects to a Mid-Florida Credit Union, where they attempted to cash stolen checks. The deputy notified LPD, due to the crime being in the city limits, and two arrests were made. Click here to read LPD’s news release:
“There are reports all over the state about car windows being smashed, and women’s purses being taken – and then the stolen checks and ID’s being used the same day at local banks. These are not isolated incidents. There is a group of suspects working here in Polk County, and in other counties across the state, doing these types of crimes. We want to get the word out to the public that we are going after these groups, and we will put them in jail.” – Sheriff Grady Judd