OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - Authorities in Kalamazoo are asking the public to beware after a number of people have been robbed in the area near the campus of Western Michigan University.
Just before midnight Monday, a woman had her purse snatched while shopping at the Walmart store, 501 S. Ninth St. in Oshtemo Township. In that case, the bandits didn't make it very far. They crashed their getaway vehicle just down the road from the store.
Investigators are still questioning the four suspects in the Walmart purse-snatching and wouldn't detail the exact setup of the robbery, but said they were working as a team.
One of the suspects snatched the purse of a 67-year-old Kalamazoo woman while she shopped, police said.
The group then hopped in a getaway vehicle and drove south toward KL Avenue. Investigators think they were attempting to turn down a side street to avoid being spotted when the driver lost control on a curve and wrecked the vehicle.
But at the time, the Kalamazoo County sheriff admits, deputies were not even in pursuit.
"Their misfortune was our fortune," said Sheriff Richard Fuller.
After the crash, authorities started searching for the suspects, and a K-9 unit picked up the scent. One of the suspects was still with the car. The other three had split up, but were tracked down quickly as they casually walked from the scene.
Michigan State Police and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety assisted the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department in tracking down the suspects.
"It took great police work last night," said Sheriff Fuller.
The purse was recovered. The suspects -- three men and a woman -- were taken to jail. They had no weapons and no one was hurt.
But after recent armed robberies in the area, including at and around Western Michigan University's campus, police are asking people to remain alert because a theft only takes a second -- especially when thieves work together.
"The wolves preying on the sheep," said Fuller. "We often have where teams of people could look, watch and then work together to confuse someone and pick up their purse or get someone's attention, just to visit with them, and then steal their purse."
And shoppers are listening to the warning.
"You have to pay attention all the time nowadays," said shopper Russ Ketchum. "There are a lot of people out of jobs and a lot of people looking for something for nothing."
Authorities say they will release the names of those suspects once they are arraigned in court.
If you know more about this incident, you are asked to call police at 269.383.8748 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.
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