Oklahoma City man arrested for allegedly stealing purses of elderly shoppers

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Police say a number of elderly women were targeted by a sticky-fingered thief in the metro.

This week, Oklahoma City police arrested a man they say is responsible for a series of purse snatchings.

Authorities say the thefts took just a split second.

The victims would turn their back on their cart for just a second, which gave the alleged suspect enough time to snatch their purse and run.

Police say the thief hit a Walmart store along I-240 and another location along W. Reno, stealing from at least a half-dozen women.

"The first thing I knew, I saw him running down the aisle real fast and my purse was gone," said Patsy Gilkes.

"I'm always right by my purse, but I turned around and it was gone. He was very quick," said Teresa Smith.

Smith, who is 63-years-old, and Gilkes, who is 84, say the thefts were a huge headache for them.

"It was a nightmare, but I'm getting over it," said Gilkes.

Fortunately, surveillance pictures and a license plate led officers to an alleged suspect.

Police were able to link 28-year-old Steven Wilbanks to at least six recent purse snatchings, including Gilkes' and Smith's.

"I'm just glad he's caught. I am so glad," said Smith.

"I'm really happy about that!" said Gilkes.

"It serves as a reminder to be careful," said MSgt. Gary Knight, with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Police believe the thefts illustrate how women always have to be cautious when shopping with their purse in the cart.

"People will steal anything that's left unattended," said Knight.

"I think I've learned my lesson. Next time, I'll fasten my purse to the basket," said Gilkes.

Police say one way to better secure a purse is to use the straps in a shopping cart to latch the purse in place.

Coincidentally, the suspect is due in court on Friday.

He's set to be sentenced for a previous unrelated shooting and burglary charge.

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