In quite a few instances, the sheriff’s office is warning, the owners also become victims of stolen identities as well.
Calling it “Gone in 60 Seconds,” the sheriff’s office says thieves are targeting establishments where women will sometimes leave their purses in their cars. Those locations include their gym, daycare centers, ballfields, jogging trails, dog parks, Zumba classes,churches, hospitals, and places where their children play.
Leaving their purses in the car, the sheriff’s office cautioned, has been a temptation to thieves that create long term problems for the victims.
“Who are they? A group of suspects who are operating statewide with the same mission,” noted Carrie Eleazer, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheirff’s Office.
The thieves have a trend where they “rent a car, put temporary window tint stickers on it, pull up next to a parked car, open the door to conceal yourself, look in the car for a purse left behind, punch a hole in thevictim’s car window, grab the purse, and head to the nearest bank drive-through window to cash the stolen checks.”
They are operating all over Florida, she added, and it can take less than 60 seconds to make off with not just the victim’s purse, but everythingg related to their identity.
As a result, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement agencies are partnering with agencies across the state to fight back.
“Our goal is to educate the public about the trend, and to issue a warning to people everywhere – do not leave your purses or personal belongings in your car,” Eleazer noted.
“These thieves are targeting women’s purses, laptop cases, smart phones, and briefcases that are left behind in parked cars,” said Polk County Sheriff rady Judd. “The message is simple – don’t make it easy for thieves to steal your money, and your identity.”
Judd urged residents to local thheir personal belongings in their trunk — or simply not leave it and take it all with them.
“Don’t leave your personal belongings in your car,” Judd said. “We know this is an organized group of suspects working in Polk County, and we need your help to identify them.”
Anyone with information on these cases can call 863-298-6217 to offer tips that help lead to the arrest of these suspects.
“There are other groups working just like this throughout the state, doing the same thing,” Judd said. “We need you to be our eyes and ears in the community to help us identifythese criminals.”
The sheriff office also released photos of three women suspects known to be involved in this trend. The photos were taken at local banks. Some of the women are believed to have used wigs when going through the bankdrive-through lanes in an attempt to conceal their identity.
On Saturday, Aug. 11, an off-duty Polk County deputy noticed a suspicious car pulling away from another car with a broken window parked at a ballfield.The deputy followed the suspects to a Mid-Florida Credit Union, where he reported that the driver attempted to cash stolen checks. The deputy notified the Lakeland Police Department, since the bank was in the Lakeland city limits, and two arrests were made.
Hopefully, Judd said, they won’t be the last.
“There are reports all over the state about car windows being smashed, and women’s purses being taken – and then the stolen checks and ID’s being used the same day at local banks,” the sheriff said. “These are not isolated incidents. There is a group of suspects working here in Polk County, and in other counties across the state, doing these types of crimes. We want to get the word out to the public that we are going after these groups,and we will put them in jail.”
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