police are investigating the theft of a purse belonging to a 52-year-old Grosse Pointe Shores woman stolen Tuesday in the parking lot of on Mack Avenue.
A man approached the woman about 6 p.m. as she was loading her groceries into her car, asked her the time and while she was looking at her watch to give him the time, he grabbed her purse from the cart and ran, according to a report.
The victim chased after the man across Mack Avenue, a pursuit witnessed by many motorists and even other passersby and residents.
Despite efforts to find the thief, police did not locate him Tuesday. Detectives are continuing the investigation today, including follow-up interviews and reviewing security surveillance video from inside the grocery story, Woods Public Safety Director Andrew Pazuchowski said.
According to a report, the man ran across Mack Avenue into the 1800 block of Country Club Drive. A track using Raleigh, the 's k-9 officer, led officers through the back yards of several homes on Country Club Drive, then into the 1800 block of Lochmoor, then the 1800 block of Hunt Club, then to the 1800 block of Norwood and to the 1800 block of Oxford. Raleigh then led officer's nears two addresses on Norwood, according to a report.
The victim's purse was found behind a business in the 20300 block of Mack Avenue under a silver van along with the robber's coat. Officers took a piece of paper and a marker into evidence for possible fingerprints as well as the woman's purse and wallet.
The victim told police she had more than $300 in her purse, which was no longer in it when officers found it. Pazuchowski said nothing else was reported missing from the purse and it did not appear Tuesday evening that he took anything other than the cash.
Although the way in which the man left the purse, which was wrapped up inside the thief's coat, makes offices ponder the possibility that he had plans to return to it, Pazuchowski said.
The fingerprint evidence will be processed by Michigan State Police and Pazuchowski also put in a request to have DNA testing performed from the evidence they gathered Tuesday. The request has been made but Pazuchowski said he expects the process to be slow because to the nature of the crime--a simple theft of a purse.
Since the purse was not technically snatched from the woman and no weapons were involved the crime is considered a larceny and the Michigan State Police process DNA based on the severity of crime, he said. A larceny is likely to be low on the list, but he has used this tool in the past and it's worked to help officers catch the criminal, he said.
He recalled a criminal who was running from police several years ago who continued running after officers grabbed the back of his shirt collar. The criminal ran out of his shirt and escaped police but the shirt was analyzed for DNA and a year later, the results led officers to his arrest, Pazuchowski said.
Pazuchowski said the crime should not cause panic among residents but is a good reminder to take more precaution when out and about. Several years ago when the store was still Farmer Jack, Pazuchowski said he investigated a rash of similar crimes that were happening in the parking lot. It happened repeatedly and eventually the man was caught by officers, who had been stationed in the parking lot in the evenings until closing.
Even while recalling that case from several years ago, Pazuchowski said such crimes are not typical for that parking lot. Generally most of what police investigate is shoplifting. The area is of a patrol focus for the department, however, because it is among the areas in the city that have many people regularly, Pazuchowski said.
Women are often targeted for crimes related to their purses as a crime of opportunity, especially in grocery stores or other retailers with carts, he said. No one should leave a purse or other item of value sitting in a cart unattended--inside or out, he said. Whether it's to grab something forgotten in the last aisle or loading the groceries, he said, recommending residents to aim to make these items inaccessible to potential criminals.
He recommends carrying a purse under a jacket rather than on the outside because it eliminates the attention to it from those who might be paying attention. He's watched video surveillance where women targeted other women inside a grocery store, appearing to be grocery shopping alongside their intended victim and taking advantage of any small window of inattention to steal valuables from their purse that is sitting in a cart.
"Don't abandon it in the store in your cart, don't become complacent about it," Pazuchowski said. "It can happen anywhere, anytime."
The other factor is that some crimes such as this purse theft may not be committed by what has been considered the historically defined criminal, Pazuchowski said. Crimes of opportunity become more appealing to a person who maybe never would have considered it before but will after they've been out of work for three years, for example, he said.
"It's not always the criminal that has been doing this for years," he said.
Responding officers checked Kroger's outdoor video surveillance last night to see if there was any telling detail that might aid in the investigation but there was not, according to a report. Today detectives will be reviewing the interior surveillance videos to see if the man from Tuesday's purse theft was inside before the crime, Pazuchowski said.
The man may have been inside the store watching to see what habits the shoppers had in regards to their purses, Pazuchowski said.
Detectives are hopeful to get a video picture of the man as they currently have a very basic description of the man: about 5-foot-10 with medium length hair and white with a light complexion.
Anyone with information is asked to called 313-343-2400.