Howard Co. police say purse thefts part of trend

Howard County police said four women had purses stolen from their locked cars Wednesday, leading police to believe the incidents are linked and part of a regional trend. 

“We can’t urge people strongly enough not to leave property inside their cars, even if it’s only for a few minutes,” Police Chief William McMahon said. “We know that in the past, these criminals have waited and watched for a woman to get out of her car without a purse. The moment she leaves the car, they smash the window, grab the bag and are gone.”

In each of the four thefts Wednesday, women reported running in to drop off a child at a daycare center, or in one case to work out at the gym, and returned to find their car windows broken and purses stolen, according to police.

Police said the incidents occurred in the following locations:

  • Kiddie Academy, 6500 block of Old Waterloo Road, Elkridge, 7 a.m.
  • Columbia Academy, 6000 block of University Blvd., Ellicott City, 7:30 a.m.
  • Children’s Manor Montessori, 9000 block of Red Branch Road, Columbia, 9 a.m.
  • YMCA, 4300 block of Montgomery Road, Ellicott City, 11 a.m.

The incidents are part of a trend seen in the region and other parts of the East Coast, according to police. During a spree between Dec. 2012 and Feb. 2013, Howard County police discovered criminals were using checks and personal information stolen from purses to commit fraud and drain bank accounts.

In a news release announcing the crimes, police said they are urging women to take the following precautions:

1. Take your purse with you everywhere, even if it’s only for a minute. Do not try to hide it in the car. If a thief sees you walk away without it, he or she knows it’s likely in the vehicle. In one of yesterday’s cases, the purse was “hidden” under the seat.

2. If you are a victim, report it to your bank immediately. In previous cases, thieves were not using credit cards, which can be detected by the bank quickly. They were using checks, which take time to move through the bank system. Tell your bank right away if your checkbook was stolen, so they can refuse to cash any checks posted against your account.

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