On March 8, an elderly woman had her wallet stolen from her shopping cart inside the Prattville Wal-Mart and reported it to police. A look at surveillance video showed the criminal tag team in action.
Wednesday the Hoover Police Department issued a warning to be on the lookout for the "thieving duo," saying their crimes have been carried out at Wal-Marts and other shopping venues in the Hoover area and in other jurisdictions.
Tony Garrett, director of Central Alabama Crime Stoppers, says police believe the crimes are connected.
He released footage from the Prattville Wal-Mart theft to WSFA in the hopes of identifying the suspects, who he believes are targeting female shoppers.
"They find their victim in the store and follow the female until she stops. And when she stops, you can see them start to do their thing. It looks like it's rehearsed. It looks like it's practiced,' Garrett said. "She grabs the attention of the victim and gets her to talking. You can look at the male and he's just waiting, waiting to make his move. Once she moves two feet away from the buggy, he reaches in, grabs the wallet and moves around to his buggy."
And it all plays out right in the middle of the busy store. Once the man has the wallet, his partner finishes up her conversation with the victim and they walk away and leave the store together.
Prattville police say the victim's credit card was used at a Walgreen's in Prattville and the same female suspect is on surveillance video using the card. Hoover PD says the stolen credit cards are used to buy "big ticket items."
According to Wal-Mart officials, the same man and woman are on surveillance video doing the same thing at the Wal-Mart in Leeds, an eastern suburb of Birmingham.
"There's no telling how much they actually commit this crime. But you can tell that they practice it, they rehearse it and this is something they do on a regular basis," Garrett said.
Shopper Brenda Lewis says women need to be careful with their purses and keep it on them at all times. Two years ago, her elderly mother was shopping at a Winn Dixie grocery store in Montgomery and turned to pick out some meats when a man ran by and grabbed her purse. Luckily, she had her house keys in her pocket but her wallet was gone.
"We had to alert the credit card company and everybody that her purse was stolen along with her social security number. So it can be a nightmare. Never leave your purse unattended. Just like we go to work each day at our jobs, people go to work stealing. You have to be aware of your surroundings," she said.
Garrett echoed her advice. He says the different law enforcement agencies where the crimes have been reported are working together to catch the suspects.
"If they're looking for purses, it's a possibility that you can become the victim of a crime. The less that you can carry a purse, the better it is. If you're going to carry a purse, make sure it's a smaller purse, make sure you have it on your person and make sure that you don't leave it unattended. And keep it zipped up until you're ready to make a purchase," he added.
Anyone with information on the cases is asked to call Central Alabama Crime Stoppers at 334-215-STOP.
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