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One man behind purse snatchings, Janesville police believe

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, October 20, 2012

— It was a scream that sent a would-be purse snatcher scurrying across a dark and rainy Boston Store parking lot Thursday.

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, a 65-year-old Edgerton woman was leaving the store when she spotted a person following her.

“I held on to my purse,” the woman said.

When he continued to follow her in the dark parking lot, she started to scream and shout at him.

“I probably used some words I shouldn’t have,” she said.

The person took off.

“A lady in that little vestibule outside the Boston Store called 911,” she said. “People really have to be careful. You really have to hold on to your purse. I don’t know what women with those big bags do.”

Other shoppers haven’t been so fortunate.

Since Oct. 5, eight people have been victims of an individual who has operated primarily by taking purses out of unattended shopping carts in stores or parking lots, according to a police news release.

The investigation appears to be focused on one person, according to the release. Victims who saw the perpetrator described him as white, tall and wearing a black, red or gray pullover sweatshirt with the hood pulled up.

Incidents include:

-- 5:20 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5: A 59-year-old Milton woman told police she noticed her purse was missing when she went to unload her shopping cart in the parking lot of Sam’s Club, 3900 Deerfield Drive, Janesville. Reported taken were a brown leather Coach bag containing $200, a cell phone valued at $150, a sterling-silver necklace with a pendant valued at $300, credit cards and identification cards.

-- 8:41 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6: Employees at Movies 16 called police about a possible purse theft that turned into a suspicious person complaint.

-- 10:01 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6: A 32-year-old Janesville woman reported her purse was taken from a table in the pool area at America’s Best Value Inn, 3900 Milton Ave., Janesville. Reported taken were a purse valued at $50, a cellphone valued at $100, gift cards worth $200, identification cards and $30 in cash.

-- 7:13 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11: A 20-year-old Janesville woman told police her purse had been taken from her cart when she was in the parking lot of Woodman’s, 2819 N. Lexington Drive, Janesville. Reported taken were a purse valued at $50, a cellphone valued at $300 and $50 in cash.

-- 2:25 p.m. Tuesday: An 89-year-old Janesville woman told police that a man stole her purse out of her cart at Boston Store, 2500 Milton Ave., Janesville. Reported taken were a purse valued at $75, credit cards, identification cards and $50 in cash.

-- 2:22 p.m. Wednesday: A 57-year-old Janesville woman told police that someone took her purse from her in the parking lot of Walmart, 3900 Deerfield Drive, Janesville. Reported taken were a purse containing $50 in cash, a cellphone and identification cards.

-- 9:55 p.m. Wednesday: A 41-year-old Janesville woman told police that she had left Bazinga’s Bar, 1110 Kellogg Ave., Janesville, to smoke. A man grabbed the purse off her shoulder and ran. Reported taken were a purse valued at $20, two cellphones, two prescriptions, identification cards and $50 in cash.

-- 2:45 p.m. Thursday: A 22-year-old woman and a 31-year-old Edgerton woman told police their purses had been taken from their carts in Shopko, 2500 Highway 14, Janesville. The contents of the purses were not listed in the police report.

The best way to prevent these thefts is to be aware of your surroundings and keep your purse with you at all times, said Lt. Keith Lawver of the Janesville Police Department. If possible, sling it across your body, not just over one shoulder.

“He’s looking for easy targets,” Lawver said.

In addition, police suggest:

-- Being aware of people standing around and watching you or others.

-- Reporting suspicious people to store managers.

-- Keeping your purse on your body and not leaving it loose in a shopping cart or on checkout counters.

-- Looking in and around your vehicle before getting in and having a cellphone in your hand as you walk to your vehicle.

Lawver does not recommend fighting back.

“I don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” he said.


Last updated: 4:48 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013


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