Police say a network of thieves has been breaking into cars near daycare centers, gyms, schools and parks up and down the East Coast.
The thieves are using stolen information to steal money from victims’ bank accounts.
According to police, eight cases that fit this trend were reported locally between December 2012 and February 2013. The victims told police they had left their purses in their car when they went to pick up kids; take a class at the gym; or walk dogs.
All of the victims were women, according to police spokesperson Sherry Llewellyn.
When they returned from their errands, police said, the victims returned to smashed windows and missing purses.
With stolen information in hand, police say the criminals take a checkbook from one victim, write a check to another victim and use that person's ID to cash the check.
In Howard County, these incidents have been reported at:
- Hillsborough Road dog park, Ellicott City
- Elkridge Elementary School, Elkridge
- Columbia Athletic Club, Columbia
- Columbia Academy, Columbia (two cases)
- Top Shape Fitness, Columbia
- Columbia Gymnastics, Columbia
- Columbia Swim Center, Columbia
Llewellyn said detectives are still tracking how much money has been stolen and the thieves’ bank activities.
No cases have been reported since February, but police said they think the suspects could return to the area.
“Our primary message today is to make women aware so we reduce the number of future victims,” Lewwelyn said.
To that end, police are urging women to:
- Take your purse with you everywhere, even if you’re just going out for a minute.
- If you absolutely cannot carry your purse, lock it in the trunk to make it less obvious to a thief.
- If you are a victim, immediately report the theft to your bank so that it can refuse to cash any checks. The thieves are not using credit cards – which can be detected quickly – they are using checks, which take time to move through the bank's system.
- If you see suspicious activity in a location similar to those targeted in the past, call 911.
See More on Patch
- Commercial Break-in in Savage: Howard County Crime Reports
- Tools and Bike Stolen in Savage; Attempted Burglary at Tools & Accessories: Weekend Crime Roundup
- Mall Construction Site Burglary, Purse Thief Returns Purse: Crime Roundup
- Have a Gun? Police Will Buy it for $100
- Armed Robberies in Laurel, Kay's Diner Burglarized: Howard County Crime Reports
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