KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Police in Kent County are warning shoppers to be vigilant after a series of robberies in store parking lots.
The thieves are targeting women as they walk to or from their cars.
The latest robbery happened Monday night in the parking lot of Sam’s Club, located at 4326 28th St. SE in Kentwood.
The victim told News 8 she suffered scrapes and bruises when the thief knocked her down and snatched her purse with everything in it, including her identity. She’s also rattled and didn’t want to be named. But she said it’s important to warn other women, especially with the busy shopping season.
She wasn’t able to provide a detailed description of the suspect, though she said he drove a white van.
Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Eric Brunner said it appears the thefts are part of a pattern involving teen boys in stolen cars targeting older women with purses.
On Monday night, a 53-year-old woman was walking to her car with groceries at the Meijer in Cascade Township when a suspect jumped out of a car and snatched her purse. She wasn’t injured. Brunner said there likely was a second suspect in the car.
On Oct. 9, at the Meijer on Marketplace Drive in Gaines Township, thieves targeted a 70-year-old woman while she was loading groceries into her car. The suspects in that case escaped in a stolen Kia and later used the victim’s credit cards at area stores.
The sheriff’s department reported two similar robberies during late summer.
Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young gave tips on how to avoid being targeted: Travel in pairs, if possible. Shop when it’s busy, and park in a well-lit part of the parking lot.
“Please leave the big purses at home,” she said. “They’re a target for people to grab. They’re difficult for you to hide.”
She suggested carrying a wallet in a pocket.
And, if you are targeted, she recommended giving up the purse without a struggle.
“My advice is to let them have it. It is much better to avoid personal injury and give up the belongings than to try to fight for it,” she said.
The Metro Pattern Crimes Team is investigating the robberies. Anyone with information is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the robbery happened on Thursday night. It actually happened on Monday. We regret the error, which has since been corrected.