Columbia police looking for suspects targeting elderly women

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COLUMBIA - Columbia police are looking for pickpocketing suspects who target elderly women out shopping.

Public Information Officer Bryana Maupin said a group will distract the women by striking up a conversation with them inside the store. While the victim is distracted, another individual will pull her wallet out of her purse. 

Maupin said so far, police have received reports of similar incidents taking place at Michaels on W. Ash Street, the Walgreens at the intersection of Broadway and Providence Road and the Walmart on W. Broadway. 

Maupin said despite the fact this string of incidents have so far involved elderly women as targets, anyone can become a victim. She said residents should be conscientious of their surroundings, as pickpocketing can happen anywhere.

"This doesn't just happen in businesses, this can happen on the streets," Maupin said. "Pickpockets aren't necessarily going to be the creepy person in the corner, it can be anybody." 

Maupin said people should also be aware of their surroundings at all times because pickpocketing happens around the clock. 

"Just as much as there's no certain appearance of a pickpocket or a thief, there's no time of day," Maupin said. "It can happen day, it can happen night, it just really depends." 

Maupin gave some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a pickpocket:

  • Be conscientious of your surroundings and where you put your wallet
  • Women should have a closable purse secured with zippers or latches
  • Men should avoid putting their wallet in their back pocket, instead put it in a zippered jacket pocket or your front pocket

Police did not release details about individual suspects, but said they are looking for a black, newer model Dodge Caravan or Chrysler Town & Country. Anyone with information associated with this vehicle is asked to call the Columbia Police Department or Crimestoppers at 573-875-TIPS.