WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) – Police are warning about a rash of purse thefts from unaware shoppers at a popular Northeast Ohio mall.
Westlake police have released surveillance photos in hopes of catching the quick-handed criminals.
Over the last month and a half, there have been at least four reports of customers having their wallets stolen at stores and restaurants in Westlake’s Crocker Park.
According to police, the suspects immediately spend thousands of dollars with stolen cards, but tonight they want to issue a warning and advice.
Friday, Westlake police released surveillance photos of people using credit cards stolen from women’s purses at various locations. Right now, they’re trying to figure out if these are the same people who stole them from customers, sometimes just minutes earlier.
“We’re not 100% sure on that yet. We’re still waiting for some interior videos from the establishments to see if we can see who exactly lifted the wallets out. It could be someone else lifting the wallet out and handing the card off to another person,” said Capt. Gerald Vogel of the Westlake Police Department.
The first reported theft was March 20, when a woman told Westlake police she had been dining at Yard House Restaurant in Crocker Park the night before. She said someone took the wallet out of her open purse and used her credit cards at a store in Sheffield Village.
“If you’re going to have your purse with you, make sure it’s zipped up unless you’re using something from inside your purse. At least it gives a perpetrator another obstacle to overcome to get a wallet out of it,” said Capt. Vogel.
March 31, police receive a call from an employee at American Eagle Outfitters at Crocker Park that a man wearing a mask, beanie type hat and sunglasses just left the store after stealing a customer’s wallet from a purse in a fitting room.
Then, April 22, another woman reported having her wallet stolen from her purse while she was also dining at Yard House restaurant. By then, her credit cards had already been used at various stores in the shopping complex.
“We’ve got a couple that were from a restaurant where a purse is just slung over the back of their chair,” said Capt. Vogel.
Thursday, May 5, an elderly woman says she was shopping at Trader Joes when a young lady asked her to read ingredients from the back of a carton label.
“Meantime, another person came out and took a wallet out of her purse when she was being distracted,” said Vogel.
Police say the victim’s credit cards were almost immediately used at the Apple Store at Crocker Park.
“You don’t have to be overly paranoid or anything like that, just be aware that wherever you’re at. Westlake, Cleveland, whatever city you’re working, shopping or living in, that there are people out there that will take your stuff,” said Capt. Vogel.
We reached out to Crocker Park to see if they wanted to comment on the thefts but did not hear back from them. Investigators say right now it does not appear that the crimes are connected or committed by the same group of people.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Westlake Police Department.