TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A group of pickpocketing suspects in the Tampa Bay area is becoming more brazen, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Now deputies are warning shoppers to be out on the lookout for them.
“It’s definitely unsettling, you know, I worry about not only myself, but like my mother she likes to shop here,” said Cindi Waring, a shopper.
The sheriff’s office said the pickpocketing thieves have been distracting shoppers across the Tampa Bay area.
“Someone will get in front of the shopper to get their attention while they’re over here focus the purse is in the shopping cart and someone will come up behind there either snatching the purse or takes whatever’s inside,” HCSO Public Information Officer Marco Villarreal said.
Deputies said that’s what happened in February when cameras captured a group of suspects walking into the Walmart on Lithia Pinecrest Road in Brandon. The group then stole a woman’s purse from her shopping cart and the thieves then used a credit card from inside the bag at another Walmart store and McDonalds.
“You’re distracted, you know what you want you get your list, you’re trying to find everything on the shelf, well these guys are pretty crafty about it,” Villarreal said.
Deputies said those same suspects went into a woman’s bag on Sunday, stole an iPhone at the Walmart on West Waters Avenue. The sheriff’s office is reminding shoppers to stay alert.
“My mom and I just had this conversation,” said Waring. “If it’s in the shopping cart, it’s either locked in with the child safety strap or have my hand through it, but nine out of 10 it’s on my shoulder and I’m holding it.
Detectives say the thieves have struck in Brandon and Sarasota and are believed to be connected to similar crimes. If you know where the suspects can be, call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office immediately at 813-247-8200.