Urgent warning: Police departments issue warning about tactic being used by thieves in store parking lots

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MCKINNEY, TX – As crime continues to surge in most cities across the nation, the McKinney Police Department (MPD) issued a warning for shoppers heading into the holiday season.

They are warning of a distraction tactic that criminals are using to steal wallets and purses. Police even released a surveillance photo showing just what these thieves are doing to innocent people.

What seems to be happening is that one individual distracts a shopper at their vehicle while the other prepares to steal from it.

The notion of the tactic is to have one thieve luring someone to the back of their car with a line like, “Maybe something is wrong with your bumper,” and then during that distraction the second thieve heads to the front of the car and swipes the person’s belongings.

In sharing this information, the McKinney Police Department is hoping that with the holidays around the corner, shoppers will be on high alert. Cery Barnes said:

“I’ve got that mindset that I need to be careful in Dallas, but I live out here in Lucas.”

On Wednesday, November 16th, Barnes made the trip to the McKinney Costco for a few things and for a split second, she made herself a target. She said:

“I left my door open, actually two doors, and then I was busy coming back here to unload. In McKinney, I thought there would be no concern.”

However, McKinney police said that this is exactly how two people at the Costco off University were victims of a group of thieves with a plan. MPD officer Shannon Seabrook said:

“You might not be watching them, but they are watching you.”

McKinney investigators released a still photo warning of a robbery ring. Police said one of the robbers, a male in a hate and mask, lured a female shopper to the rear of her vehicle claiming she had something on the back of her car.

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As the woman leaned over, a second robber entered the front seat and stole her wallet. All of this happened in the middle of the afternoon. Seabrook said:

“This time of year, people take advantage of other people.”

One shopper, identified as Mary Ann Carroll, said:

“It’s Costco. Everybody comes here. We don’t think about someone is going to do something like that.”

Three days earlier, at the same exact Costco, MPD said that an elderly man was distracted by two robbers, a man and a woman asking for directions. A third robber stole the man’s credit cards from inside the car. Police do believe that the crimes are connected.

McKinney police said that it is difficult to identify the suspects in the still photo because they are in masks and hats. MPD hopes that this warning serves as a reminder to folks to be aware of their surroundings. Police have given a simple three-step safety tip:

Lock, take, hide. If you leave your vehicle, make sure it is locked. If you can, take everything out of your vehicle. If you must leave items inside your vehicle, make sure you hide them or put them in the trunk. 

Police said that in addition to those tips, while loading items into your vehicle, make sure you have your purse or wallet on you at all times and do not leave personal items in your vehicle. Police advised that if something or someone just “seems off,” do not hesitate to call 911.

The incidents in McKinney come as police in near by Frisco investigate a series of purse snatchings in parking lots at Walmart, Target, and H-E-B.

Out of the three reports, Frisco police believe two of the incidents appear to be related as they happened within six minutes of each other. April Haspel was in the H-E-B parking lot when that incident went down. She said:

“I saw the woman coming out of the store with her shopping cart, and the next thing I know, she is falling to the ground. Then this guy is standing over her, pulling her purse, and at that point, it was around her neck.”

She added:

“I called 911 and everybody ran to help her, it was terrifying. Obviously, these guys were not afraid to do something so brazen in front of the store.”

Police believe the Walmart incident was isolated. Frisco Police Chief David Shilson said in a statement:

“Unfortunately, these incidents provide a sobering reminder that criminals are looking to prey on innocent victims in our city, especially as we get closer to the holidays. I would like to encourage all our residents to remain vigilant and don’t hesitate to call us if you see something suspicious.”

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