Purse Thieves Targeting Shoppers in San Pedro

Thieves are distracting shoppers and stealing their purses at stores in San Pedro, police said

South Bay shoppers have been warned to keep a closer eye on their purses and their grocery carts after thieves are caught on surveillance video stealing wallets while the victims aren't looking.

The "distraction thefts" are happening every few months in the area, according to LAPD Harbor Division officer and burglary detective Don Eldridge.

"The suspect is going to look for a purse that's open and that's unattended when the owner is looking for groceries or distracted," Eldridge said.

The most recent crime happened on May 12 at a Sprouts grocery store in San Pedro, according to police.

That is where Cynthia Setka was shopping, when a woman approached her.

"I was waiting in line for the deli for the person to come to service," said Setka. "She approached me and said I should ring the bell (for service)."

What happened next is similar to what happened to another shopper last October at a supermarket not too far from where Setka was victimized.

"I had no idea anyone was behind me, no clue that anything happened until I got to the register and realized I didn't have my wallet!" Setka said.


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Police cannot be certain the recent thefts are connected.

They are hoping someone will recognize the suspects in a newly released surveillance video. One of the women is seen trying to use one of Setka's credit cards at a nearby retailer less than 30 minutes after stealing her wallet.

"Every couple of months I see a report like this," said Eldridge. "It lets people know you need to be careful at the store. If you're approached by a stranger you don't know - fine talk to them, but pick up your purse first."

Setka was able to call her bank and cancel her credit cards before the thieves used her card. She said she learned a valuable lesson.

"It does make you feel violated," she said.

Call LAPD Harbor Division Detective Donald Eldridge at 310-726-7853, or the after hours line, 310-726-7701 with information about the case.  

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