2001-06-07 / Top Stories

Pickpockets And Cons Still Plague Shopping Centers

By Charles Rogers
Pickpockets And Cons Still Plague Shopping Centers By Charles Rogers

By Charles Rogers

According to Deputy Inspector Jeannine Jennette, commanding officer of the 69th Precinct, the pickpockets who have been plaguing shoppers in the Canarsie area are still at it.

"We’re on the lookout for them and, by warning the public, maybe a witness will come forward and help us apprehend them.

The thieves have been hitting mostly along the Rockaway Parkway shopping strip between Conklin Avenue and Farragut Road.

From what we can determine at this point," Inspector Jennette said, "the victims are 50 to 80 years old and are usually approached individually by a heavy-set, well-dressed, black female who takes the wallet out of their purses while they’re leaning over a counter or looking through sales merchandise."

She suggested shoppers keep their pocketbooks in front of them, not only while they’re walking around, but especially when they stop to look at an item.

"Everybody has to be more aware of their surroundings," she said. "Don’t leave your pocketbook open while you shop and make sure you keep your wallet in a different place, rather than your purse."

Jennette said her troops are also on the alert in the hope of catching a team of con artists who have shown up in the same area and, in one case, near East 103rd Street and Foster Avenue. "In the cases of the scam artists, they’ve been known to approach people who are shopping in, or who have just left, either the GreenPoint Savings Bank, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Duane Reade Pharmacy or the Telco store." She said the victims are approached by either a single black female or a trio consisting of a heavy-set well-dressed female, a Hispanic or light-skinned black female and a well-dressed black male.

"It’s the ‘dropped wallet’ scam," she said, "where the perpetrators say they found a wallet on the street and say they’ll share its contents with the victim. They ask the victim to give them a certain amount of ‘assurance’ money while they have the wallet checked out and, when they are given the cash, they give the victim the wallet, which is chock full of torn paper."

She said it "doesn’t sound possible" that people could be so gullible but, "hey, the thought of a lot of free money makes people do crazy things." She also noted that, since some of the victims tend to be immigrants, there is a language barrier, leading to more confusion.

She said in one of the cases recently discovered, one of the female perpetrators was actually a male.

"After the crime was committedp, the guy changed back into men’s clothes and the victims couldn’t identify him as one of the scammers."

"You gotta be careful out there," she added.

Anyone with information on the scammers or pickpockets is asked to call the local detective squad at 257-6215. All calls will be kept confidential.

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