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APD: Purses being stolen from cars

A recent rash of automobile breaks-ins and thefts is prompting the Andalusia Police Department to issue a warning to motorists and shoppers – don’t leave valuables in plain sight.

In recent days, thieves have used items ranging from bricks to deadbolt locks to shatter car windows and make off with a variety of goods, said Sgt. Tim Stallworth Tuesday.

“(Monday) night we had a incident at (Andalusia) Middle School where, during the ballgame with everyone inside the gym, someone smashed a car window and stole a purse and all its contents,” he said. “Incidents like that are becoming a trend.”

Stallworth said investigators are looking into at least six similar incidents occurring at a local bank, numerous residences and several local retail businesses.

“Of those, I’d say it was 50-50 on whether or not the vehicle was locked or not,” he said.

“And the hot items people are stealing – purses, laptops, GPS systems and iPods, but most of the time you have several hundreds of dollars in damages for a $50 theft.”

Stallworth said he does not believe the incidents are related nor are they being performed by a specific group of people.

“These are totally random incidents of what we call a ‘target of opportunity,’” he said.

“For example, we had a guy pull into the Wal-Mart parking lot next to a van. He hopped out and went inside. The gentleman in the van opened this man’s passenger side door and helped himself to the man’s GPS device. We don’t think that the man in the van went to Wal-Mart to steal a GPS; the opportunity presented itself.”

Stallworth said it was the same scenario with ladies’ purses.

“We can’t stress enough to the ladies – don’t leave your purse in the car in plain sight,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if the car is locked or not. We say that locks are for honest people. If a thief wants it, he’s going to break the window to get it, and you might say, well, there’s not a lot of cash in there so they wouldn’t get much.

“What they would get is all of your financial information, your driver’s license number and so on, so the potential for even more crimes like identity theft and check forgeries is there,” he said.

“Don’t assume there is going to be video of these incidents happening,” he said.

“And don’t assume it can’t happen to you. We’re asking that the public protect themselves. Put away your valuables.