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Camera images may help ID thugs

Detectives hope enhanced footage will help aid in arrest of trio

Posted: August 14, 2008 4:11 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Suspect 1. If you have any information on his identity, please contact Sgt. Anderson at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, (661) 799-5136.

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Detectives hunting for three wallet-lifting thieves who steal from elderly shoppers at local grocery stores hope enhanced images taken from store surveillance cameras will identify them.

"Detectives on the case have obtained the surveillance camera images from Albertsons," said Lt. Brenda Cambra of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

On three separate occasions, seniors were victims of a theft which occurred as they did their grocery shopping, she reported Wednesday.

On Thursday, Cambra said sheriff's deputies could be dealing with four victims after a senior citizen contacted sheriff's deputies Wednesday.

The woman contacted the station after reading about the thefts in The Signal Wednesday, Cambra added.

"We are aware of at least one other woman who says a man started talking to her (while shopping)," Cambra said. "She says it made her uncomfortable so she grabbed her purse."

On Aug. 7 a woman was grocery shopping when she was distracted by someone who appeared to be another shopper, Cambra said.

"As she tried to help the shopper, she looked away from her purse, which she had left in the
shopping cart. Another suspect walked up and stole her wallet from her purse," she said.

Two other similar thefts were reported to have occurred at different stores as the day went on.

The first two thefts occurred in Vons and Ralphs grocery stores in Newhall. The third theft occurred in Saugus at Albertsons.

The Santa Clarita Valley detectives assigned to the case, Sgt. James Anderson of the Sheriff's Station's burglary/fraud team has issued a description of two of the men seen in the surveillance tapes.

Two of the suspects are described as Hispanic males, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, between 35 and 40 years old, one wearing a tan-colored flat-top hat and both wearing button-up shirts.

Deputies believe that there are three suspects, all reported to be Hispanic.

In each case reported to deputies, the suspects have distracted the victims by asking about food products and in one case, the suspect fell down and appeared to need help getting up, Cambra reported.

Preying on the good natures of the victims, they direct the victim's attention away from their shopping cart where they have left their purse sitting in a vulnerable position, Cambra said.

Shoppers should keep their personal property secure and on their person while in public areas, she added.

While the victims in these cases have all been female seniors, anyone who leaves their property in a vulnerable position is a potential victim for those targeting personal property.

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