SHAWNEE, Okla. — Six ladies shopping at a Shawnee store unknowingly became the target of a woman who appears to be outgoing and friendly when striking up a conversation with her fellow shoppers, but has an ulterior motive of stealing wallets from the ladies’ unzipped purses.
Shawnee Police Detective Jason Crouch said there’s been six separate cases since March at the Ross store, located at Shawnee Mall. Investigators believe the thefts are the work of a single suspect.
In each case, the female is nice and friendly when she approaches and talks to the other customers.
“She looks for victims,” Crouch said, and is outgoing in talking to them. “She blends in like a shopper…she might ask for help getting something off shelves.”
Crouch said the suspect targets women walking around with purses that are either unsnapped or unzipped, making it easy for her to retrieve wallets inside.
And when the unsuspecting customer visits with or helps the woman, the suspect reaches into their “wide open” purses, takes their wallet and calmly leaves the store.
“She’s gone in 15 minutes,” Crouch said, adding the suspect has never made a purchase.
Surveillance video shows there’s been the same heavyset black female — in her 40s or 50s — shopping in the store at the time of the thefts. Crouch said she is believed to be the same suspect in all the cases.
Crouch said the woman appears to be after cash since there’s been no reports yet of her trying to use the victims’ credit cards or checks, but there’s still a concern about that.
“She could be hitting other cities — she might not even be from here,” Crouch said, “but we need to deter her.”
Crouch said police have used some creative ways in an attempt to catch the thief, with store personnel also assisting.
All of the incidents have occurred on weekends, he said, but there’s been no other set pattern or times.
And while the investigation is ongoing, Crouch said the simplest act of prevention is for ladies to always keep their purses zipped and closed.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” Crouch said, adding this type of crime can occur anywhere. Shoppers who see something suspicious should call 911 or let store management know.
“We need to get this woman identified,” he said.
Of the six incidents, all but one of the female victims were out-of-town residents, with varied losses in each case, he said.