Distracted Shoppers Target of Theft this Holiday Season

Theft on the Rise as Criminals Target Distracted Shoppers

distracted shoppersAcross the United States, criminals are targeting so-called “distracted shoppers” as reports of theft rise during this holiday shopping season.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has issued a warning against distracted shopping so that holiday shoppers can avoid theft.

A common form of theft occurs when thieves target a shopper headed to their car in a parking lot. The thieves pull up beside the victim, grab their purse or wallet, and speed away.

“Cellphone has brought crime to a whole new level,” said San Francisco Police Captain Jason Cherniss. “It’s pretty dramatic, I should say, the cause and effect. These people just walking around are basically just kinda waving around $400 in their hands and opportunists just go for it.”

Distracted shoppers, on cell phones or talking to fellow shoppers, are the most enticing targets, according to Lt. Rafael Gonzalez, who is with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

“A lot of the folks that are being targeted are on phones, not really paying attention to their surroundings so you need to be aware of what you’re doing where you’re going,” he said. “They’re literally sliding up next to your vehicle and opening the door if you leave it open and they’re just taking your purse or your valuables right out of there, and that’s all they’re taking that one item. So it’s called sliding because that person almost looks like they’re sliding right next to the car, taking that item and driving away.”

Gonzalez recommends taking just one credit card with you when you shop, or just the amount of money you intend to spend, and be aware of your surroundings.

“Just try to keep a good grip and, y’know, be aware,” said Prentice Jackson, a resident of San Francisco. “Sort of, like, [be aware] where I’m walking at in San Francisco, whether I’m in the good or the bad neighborhoods.”

Mother and Son Arrested for Theft from Distracted Shoppers

A report from Miami Township, Ohio shows how problematic holiday theft is becoming: a mother and son were arrested recently for preying on distracted shoppers.

Emma Clark, 49, and her son, Andrew Burton, 31, of Goshen, were arrested on December 2. Investigations began after a report of a purse snatching outside of a Meijer store in Miami Township. Other reports of wallet and purse thefts involved suspects with the same description.

Other thefts included a wallet taken from a purse at a Kroger on Thanksgiving, while the shopper was distracted near the bakery, and a similar incident the day before when a woman was looking at turkeys; on November 29th, an iPhone was stolen at a GameStop; and the theft of a purse at a Circle K on November 27th.

According to police, cash and credit cards from the wallets and purses were used to purchase tobacco products, gift cards, and gasoline. Contents of the purses and wallets were discarded at various locations around the township.

Police eventually tracked down the two thieves based on physical descriptions. Clark was charged with four counts of felony theft and is being held at the Clermont County Jail on a $30,000 bond.  Burton was charged with two counts of Complicity to felony theft and is being held on a $10,000 Bond.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Criminal Charges, Including Theft

If you face criminal charges, from theft to assault and battery, you need to ensure his/her legal rights are protected. We can help. Please contact the Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free case evaluation with a dedicated and aggressive criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience handling juvenile court cases. We offer free, confidential consultations, so do not hesitate to contact us. 803.252.4800

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