A few minutes after she returned home from running an afternoon errand, an elderly Clearwater woman recently answered a knock at her front door. On her doorstep the woman found a "young girl" who told her she was trying to find her grandmother. The woman said she was unable to help the girl who then asked permission to use the restroom. The woman politely allowed the girl to come inside her home and then busied herself, as her young visitor appeared to enter the restroom.
When the woman was not looking, the young girl helped herself to a purse that had been left on a table near the front door. The two engaged in a short chat before the girl thanked the woman for her hospitality and excused herself. Before the woman missed the purse, the young girl and her two accomplices, who had been waiting outside, quickly used the credit cards from the purse to charge almost $2,000 worth of merchandise at local stores. The victim of this crime was unaware that her purse had been stolen until her bank telephoned to inquire about suspicious activity on her credit card account.
Before the three suspects involved in this crime were identified and arrested, this scenario had taken place at least 35 times over the past few months in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. The young girl was actually a 22-year-old woman who had previously been involved in the commission of other crimes. In each of these cases, the suspects sought out elderly victims and then took advantage of their desire to be helpful to a young person in need.
I would like to remind everyone to be cautious when approached by a stranger, and to recommend that no one of any age should allow a stranger to enter his or her home for any reason. Once a stranger has made it inside, neither you nor your belongings are safe.
As the holidays approach I would also like to remind everyone to be careful when away from home, especially when shopping. Packages left unattended in a car, or valuables left in plain view through a window at home are an open invitation for a criminal to take them. By placing packages inside the trunk of your car and then locking the doors you will increase the chances significantly that your property will be there when you return. Similarly by locking your doors at home and by closing your blinds you will also reduce the temptation for an unwelcome visitor to enter while you are out.
Crime prevention begins with simple suggestions like these, but only you can make them work. It is our goal to improve the quality of life and safety for our citizens by "Leading The Way For A Safer Pinellas."
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