Caught on Video: Thieves Distract Customers, Employees to Steal Purses

Five women are captured on camera in a series of purse thefts involving distracted employees and customers

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    Huntington Beach investigators are now working with other area police departments searching for a group of five women suspected in a string of distraction thefts. Last week NBC4 alerted police that surveillance photos from cases in nearby areas showed similar looking suspects. Vikki Vargas reports from Huntington Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Published Wednesday, May 7, 2014)

    Five quick and coordinated purse thieves captured on video at a salon as they distracted employees and customers to steal an unattended purse might be connected to similar thefts in Orange County.

    The video showed five women -- one seated next to a store employee's unattended purse, two talking with employees and two more pacing around Glitz Salon. The seated woman appeared to orchestrate the distraction as she motioned to the others to continue talking with employees near a wall of merchandise.

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    At the same time, another woman grabbed an employee's purse and placed it in the seated woman's bag as she walked past. The women left the store before the customers and employees noticed the missing purse.

    The distraction theft is one of six reported in the last "several months" at dry cleaners, nail salons, and day spas, according to Huntington Beach police. The women usually take turns speaking with employees and customers, who fail to notice when their accomplices take their items.

    The robberies have occurred in three Orange County communities, including Fountain Valley. Two women were captured on video at a restaurant as they distracted employees and stole a purse from behind a front counter. 

    "We're operating on the assumption this is a string of thefts involving the same people," said Lt. Mitch O'Brien, of the Huntington Beach Police Department.

    Anyone with information about the crimes can contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-847-6627.