Protect your purses: Rocky River police issue warning about thieves targeting shoppers

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- An important warning from Rocky River police about a group of thieves targeting shoppers at local grocery stores.

Police said over the last week, three wallets have been stolen from unattended handbags in Rocky River.

It happened at several different retail stores, including Whole Foods, Giant Eagle, and Panera. In all three instances unauthorized purchases were made at nearby stores using the victim's credit cards.

On May 16, investigators say a woman seen on surveillance video is posing as a shopper at Whole Foods on Detroit Road.

While an accomplice distracts a woman at the salad bar, the suspect is going through the woman's purse and stealing her wallet.

Rocky River police say the same ring of thieves pulled off a similar crime later that day at Giant Eagle on Center Ridge Road.

Detectives say the suspects are targeting older women who are shopping alone.

"They go away from the cart. The suspects see this. One will engage that person in conversation to get them away from the cart; the other two, easy pickings, boy, they just go through, grab it real quick," said Chief Kelly Stillman.

Police offer the following advice:

"Keep your purse over your shoulder; whatever you want to do, or keep your wallet with you; don't leave it in the cart; don't leave the cart unattended. I mean this happens so frequently and so often though as many times as we get the word out there, we still have the victims of this crime so it's frustrating for us; I know it's frustrating for the victim but you know your best defense against this offense is to keep your stuff with you, not in your cart."