West Seattle Crime Watch: Beware of grocery-store thieves

Don’t even think about leaving your purse/wallet or another personal item in your cart while you grocery-shop, warns a reader who just sent this report: They made a brief visit to Trader Joe’s on Saturday when “a woman … started engaging with me to distract me. In minutes my wallet which is essentially my purse was gone. In about 10 minutes this group of people were making purchases at the Target in Westwood Village for hundreds and hundreds of dollars on all 4 of my cards. There was definitely a group of people involved in this scam. The cops were called to Trader Joe’s and immediately called a squad to Westwood Village. They were able to identify two suspects based on the time stamp of the transactions. We never caught this person but this person has all my information from where I live to the business I own. I wanted to let you know so people can become aware since these people have a plan, and (I) don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

48 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch: Beware of grocery-store thieves"

  • Eric April 10, 2016 (10:35 am)

    Is there a description of the woman? Is there surveillance footage of these POS from Target and/or other Westwood Village stores? So 2 people have been identified? Is there anything going to happen to them for theft and identity theft?

    The ability to use cards without being asked for identity only enables this POS behavior. 

    Though I suppose asking for someone to see their ID would slow everything down and cut into people’s precious time and cut into the stores profits. * end sarcasm

  • Chris April 10, 2016 (10:41 am)

    They are fast and sometimes travel in groups.   I realized they were in Fred Meyer one time as I was being watched.   I hurried to get to my mom, who was using a motorized store cart.   I was too late as she had reached down to pick something off off the floor, they took the money out of her purse she had just taken out of the bank machine.   We learned not to use the bank machine when just going into the store.   So many times we have reminded people in the stores to not turn their backs on their purses, wallets even for a second.   They tried recently to get my friend’s wallet by distracting him on one side and coming towards him in the back.   He realized what was going on and was able to walk away from the situation.   Guys – a reminder to put a rubberband around your wallet as that will give resistance in your pocket & perhaps keep you from having it stolen.   These people often work in teams or in groups.    Be aware of your surroundings even in the stores & the parking lots.   They might step on your foot, bump you, or start talking to distract you while their team member gets your purse or wallet.   Keep your hand on your purse or in your arms.   Sometimes people have their purses open in the cart & wall the thief has to do is walk by and grab the wallet.   Be smarter than these thieves.   I am sure others will have some suggestions too.

  • coffee April 10, 2016 (10:47 am)

    Ladies I see this daily in stores.  Handbags open and unattended in carts.  I used to say something until one day someone chewed me out.  I tried to explain myself and that she was leaving herself to be a victim.  

  • Maws April 10, 2016 (11:52 am)

    Definitely disturbing that the last two Crime Watch posts have a grand total of one comment (this one) after the 1000+ combined between the tree posts.  And the Highland car accident tragedy only a fraction of the tree total.  Again, not saying the cutting wasn’t wrong, but the proportionality of reaction is stunning.  Living in a higher crime part of West Seattle, I wish the same kind of energy could be put into what seems to be an increasing stream of car theft and break in news.  By energy I mean the petitions, political engagement, calls to action, and genuine passion that the cutting provoked.  It feels (not saying this is accurate, it’s just how it feels to me) like trees in a wealthier parts of West Seattle are more important to some people here than lives & crime in the less wealthy parts. 

    • chemist April 10, 2016 (12:21 pm)

      Internet commenting isn’t proportional to societal impact, but there can be a lot of ways people can imagine defending trees and lots of suggestions offered.  How many ways can the general public go after pick-pockets or being in the wrong place at the wrong time when an alleged car thief is speeding away ?

    • GNel April 10, 2016 (1:13 pm)

      “but the proportionality of reaction is stunning.”

      Once again. Clear cutting an acre and a half of trees that DO NOT BELONG TO YOU, trees on public land is a major crime.

      By this time next week we should know the names of the criminals.

    • burglarbustingdad April 10, 2016 (2:26 pm)

      Well said Maws.  I share your opinion.

    • Matt April 10, 2016 (2:48 pm)

      The difference between potentially millions in property damage vs hundreds in theft. 

    • seaopgal April 10, 2016 (4:41 pm)

      Making comparisons like this will drive you nuts … just do the best you can for whatever it is that you care about.  It’s not like there’s a finite amount of compassion in the world or energy or potential for advocacy — people can and do care about and act for more than one thing without taking anything away from something else. 

  • JanS April 10, 2016 (12:55 pm)

    I have never looked into this, but is there a way you can set your cards to only work if you use a PIN? Wouldn’t that deter the use of them? Just curious.

    This purse thing in grocery stroes goes hand  in hand with never leave anything you value in your car, and  don’t put it in your trunk where others can see you doing it. Covering something up in your car doesn’t work. I’m aware of my purse at all times in the grocery store…..to me it’s just common sense.I hang it on the cart, and then cover up with my coat. Will be more difficult as warmer weather approaches.

  • Friend April 10, 2016 (1:44 pm)

    I also know someone who had their wallet lifted in this manner at Fred Meyer. The store staffer somewhat sheepishly admitted it is common. 

  • Seattlite April 10, 2016 (1:46 pm)

    You cannot be too vigilant.  Never leave an unattended purse or wallet in a shopping cart.  Two days ago, I parked by the drive-in side of Chase Bank in Westwood Village.  It was a sunny day so there weren’t many cars in the parking lot.  After shopping at Target, I rolled by full cart into the lot on the south side of Chase Bank and what do I see but a creepy guy looking into the windows of my parked car.  He saw me and started walking toward me.  I left my full cart in the middle of the parking lot and walked to the front of the bank where a lady was getting into her car.  The creepy guy then stood by my cart.  The lady said she would walk me to my car and help load it up.  As we were doing that, the creepy guy finally left.  It makes me made that we all have to put up with these creepy guys that seem to hang in the Westwood parking lots.

  • Community Member April 10, 2016 (1:48 pm)

    It is completely unreasonable to believe that the number of comments is a measure of how much readers care about an issue. The crime report stories usually indicate that the police and/or prosecutors are on the job; readers hardly need to post to say they agree with calling the police in that situation. 

    Some threads get large numbers of posts precisely because it is apparent that prosecutors are not involved yet, and there is some disagreement about whether they should be involved.   That calls for discussion, so people discuss. 

    A death calls for grief. Some people post to share their  grief, but not posting does not mean that grief is not felt.

  • RayWest April 10, 2016 (2:27 pm)

    Seniors are particularly vulnerable. This happened to my mother about twelve years ago at the Jefferson Safeway. Someone grabbed her purse from the cart while she was looking the other way. Unfortunately, she had just cashed a checked and had a lot of money in her wallet. She never had credit cards or a check book even, so at least we didn’t have to worry about that. Her homeowners insurance actually covered her for $200 of the theft (they stole about $700). The purse was found abandoned on 35th Ave.

  • Westside45 April 10, 2016 (2:37 pm)

    Wallet in front pocket keeps it away from jerks. You would need to be really distracted to miss someone else’s hand in a front pocket.

  • Eric April 10, 2016 (4:12 pm)

    Seattlelite, do you have a description of this “creepy” guy?

    BTW again, is there a way to get Target’s surveillance footage up so we can see these POS?

    • AMD April 10, 2016 (4:35 pm)

      Target has VERY good surveillance in the store and a lot of the parking lot, but they hold it very tightly, only releasing to law enforcement and only when it’s needed for criminal cases.

  • Maws April 10, 2016 (4:56 pm)

    Community Member and others, there is one thing for certain: had this cutting happened in south delridge there is NO WAY comments would be even half of what they were.  Unfortunately for the idiot homeowners, they cut trees that impact rich West Seattle.  Rich trees.  The horror!  

    While crime in delridge is brushed off as “hundred dollar theft” – not that In 98116 and 98136 there is much attention paid to the lives destroyed by crime and violence in 98106. Just a little frustrated nobody can see that – how even on crime threads if the street number is in the 20s or less there will always be less commenting than the 30s up.  Obviously internet commenting is not the best way to gauge passion, but the sheer indignation of the tree comments rubbed me the wrong way.  And for the editors, not trying to direct this towards you.  I love WSB because it actually makes me feel a part of West Seattle, the tree story reaction just struck a nerve with me. 

    • GNel April 11, 2016 (9:58 am)

      “had this cutting happened in south delridge there is NO WAY comments would be even half of what they were.  ”

      Had someone  clear cut an and a half of ANY public land in Seattle there would have been a gigantic outcry. 

    • Alan April 11, 2016 (10:27 am)

      I agree with GNEL.  If anything we might be screaming louder. The Riverview neighborhood fought for six years to save the Soundway property as greenbelt. Six years of fighting for thirteen acres. If someone clear-cut an acre and a half (more than 10%) of it, you can bet the reaction would make the news.

    • kittyno April 11, 2016 (10:48 am)

      @ Maws:  I think you’re thinking about this all wrong.  People are very upset that some wealthy criminal feels he/she is above the law.  So the outrage is not because it happened in a wealthy part of town, but that a relatively wealthy person committed the crime and feels he/she can slide by unhindered.  That has people really going.  

      And the criminal is standing to make a great deal of money off the sale of the property, despite any court decision (unless the decision is to block the individual’s view).

      I think you would get similar outcry if a wealthy developer came into a public area in a low-income neighborhood and cut down more than an acre of trees.  

  • Maws April 10, 2016 (5:20 pm)

    And I should clarify, not saying a cutting elsewhere deserves the same reaction.  I just feel actual violence and malicious crime (even if in a less prominent location) is a bigger deal than some ill-conceived tree cutting.

    • AMD April 10, 2016 (5:29 pm)

      I hear what you’re saying, but the number of comments has to do with how much there is to discuss.  In this case, we know exactly what happened and we know exactly how to stop it from happening again.  Those things alone are 99% of the comments in the tree case.  

    • KNEEDLER April 10, 2016 (6:51 pm)

      I think some of what you are saying has merit, particularly in regards to violent crime, but you choose a poor thread to try and make this argument.

      Petty theft of an unattended purse isn’t something I would expect many of your neighbors to come out of the woodwork and comment on. This is an everyday occurrence in the city and a general symptom of poverty. The intentional destruction of over an acre of our very limited public green space done by seemingly respectable people in our community is much more rare event,  and harder for a lot of us to understand. 

    • Alan April 11, 2016 (9:10 am)

      If people were commenting on here that this theft was no big deal, that there were bigger crime concerns and that the thief needed the money, then I think you would see more extensive comments. I don’t see anyone on here asking why we are spending time discussing this when there are tree crimes to pursue.

    • GNel April 11, 2016 (10:45 am)

      “I just feel actual violence and malicious crime”

      These are  minor property crimes we have been discussing. The folks who decided it would be OK to clear- cut an acre and a half of trees on a public greenbelt committed a major property crime.  Hundreds of dollars vs hundreds of thousands of dollars.  See the difference?

      If you want to gauge community support for your ‘solution’ (whatever that may be beyond denigrating your community and pretending that clear-cutting public property is a victim-less crime) why not start your own petition?

      That said, clear-cutting an acre and a half of public land to improve one’s view is both malicious and breathtakingly arrogant. I would much rather deal with a pickpocket.

  • aRF April 10, 2016 (5:57 pm)

    I parked my tree in Westwood earlier today. Came back after shopping and, yup, I was left with a stump. 

    • kittyno April 11, 2016 (10:49 am)

      awesome!  but can you repurpose the stump?  a nice hipster coffee table?

  • Brenda April 10, 2016 (6:21 pm)

    98116 !!!!! 

  • Nancy April 10, 2016 (7:28 pm)

    I do not feel safe in the community in which I was born and raised.  Yes, I see many creepy guys around Westwood and Seattle in general.  I worry about just going for a walk anymore.   The tree cutting was a heinous and selfish act.  But my personal freedom and security are more and more at risk in the place where I live.

    Our wonderful city government needs to do more to make life secure for us in stead of lining their pockets and those of developers.  What good is a tunnel, another stadium and an over a billion dollar transit system if your citizens aren’t safe?  Misplaced priorities.  Spend our money for us.  Get the transients, addicts etc. out of our community.

    I don’t mean that we should have “big brother” looking over us either.  You know who the bad eggs are.  Send them to Mars.

    • kittyno April 11, 2016 (1:54 pm)

      I also vote Mars.  It will be like the Australia of the planetary system.

  • Danielle April 10, 2016 (8:35 pm)

    I wear my jogging jacket with zipper pockets and literally just carry my debit card whenever I shop now. I leave my handbag at home, and my license in my glove compartment. Less to think about at the stores. So stressful. 

    Ironically, I have a drug addicted sister who lives on the east coast, and was busted for stealing a $1200 handbag out of a lady’s cart in the produce section. My point is… yes…. alot of this comes back to the problem of drug addiction. And I have no answers on fixing the root of the problem. I’m sure I’m not the only frustrated family member of an addict. All I can say is…. protect yourself. Because my sister, who was once a loving and caring person, who has a master’s degree and has traveled the world….. is now a shell of a person, and heroin has taken the drivers seat. I say this not to solicit sympathy, but to let you know that there’s a strong pull, that we as a society can’t seem to fix. Gotta prioritize our own safety.

  • Iggy April 10, 2016 (8:48 pm)

    Good conversation.  I agree with Nancy.  Today I took the 21 to Westwood Village.  Sunday afternoon at 2:00, and there was a wall of 21 and RR C buses.  We got let off way, way at the end of the line and got to slog the long block along Roxhill Park to the crosswalk.  Two weeks ago when I did this same Sunday afternoon outing, there was a fellow sprawled out on the sidewalk at the crosswalk bus stop.    There was a bottle and food and various belongings scattered around him.  The Metro drivers just ignored it, although it was at the bus stop.  Today, there was a different person sprawled just off the parking strip on the walk from the bus to the crosswalk.   Again, belongings everywhere, and he was blocking the public right of way.  Really Mayor and and City Council, this has to stop.     I love West Seattle, and I love being able to jump on a bus and go to the Junction or Westwood Village and not have to bother with my car, but it is getting pretty unpleasant at the bus stops.    

    • Sunuva April 11, 2016 (7:42 am)

      This does seem to be an almost everyday occurrence at those bus stops now. On Friday, there were two men sprawled out at the stop on Barton in front of Rite Aid when I drove by. It was early afternoon and people are going about their day walking around these guys. A young lady appeared to be trying to wake one of them because he looked almost dead. It is scary that ordinary citizens have to handle this just so they can use the bus stop. I know there is private security at Westwood village, but do they ever patrol the bus stops or is that supposed to be Metro’s or SPD’s problem? 

  • WS Wanderer April 10, 2016 (10:16 pm)

    A couple of weeks ago, I saw a woman run out of Admiral Safeway with a basket of toiletries. She ran in front of my car as I was stopped at the light and jumped into an SUV. I got the first and last digits of the license plate but was doubting what I saw. Did she really just steal all that stuff and run out?

    I headed home and decided to pull over to call the store. The manager said yes, they knew about it but store policy was that they wouldn’t do anything once a person leaves the store. But that I could call the police.

    Just then, I saw the same SUV run a stop light and pass in front of me. I followed it and it stopped at the parking garage entrance to an apartment building. The woman got out with her basket and sat just inside the parking garage. I took a photo of the license plate.

    I called the police and explained the situation. They asked why the manager didn’t call and I said it was store policy that they wouldn’t. The police refused to come out because “there was no victim” if Safeway wouldn’t do anything about it. To make matters worse, because she was sitting 10 feet inside the parking garage, the police couldn’t enter even if they did pursue it.

    • Yolster April 11, 2016 (6:51 am)

      That is incredibly frustrating! You go to all the effort to get the details, and there is no victim?! Wow. 

      Same thing happened to me in WS Bartell’s. Standing in hair care aisle and two gals enter the aisle with very large identical handbags. One was very pregnant and they came and stood on either side of me. I stepped backward and they cleared the section of Redken products into their bag and ran. I yelled up the aisle to the manager and by the time she looked outside, they were already in an SUV and headed out of the parking lot. They had a driver waiting. 

  • anonyme April 11, 2016 (6:33 am)

    There are frequently scumbags hanging around the ATM area of the Safeway BECU.  I once saw a young woman and her partner taking screen shots over people’s shoulders as they used the machines.  When I reported it to bank management, they just shrugged.  Got the same response from BECU corporate.  Another time, same location, I asked a guy to move away from the  ATM I was using and he began shouting vulgarities, creating quite a scene.  Again, BECU staff was unmoved.  I’m always super vigilant, if only because I know that dishonesty is rampant and help nonexistent.

    Seattle feels like the lawless West, but disguised by an icy veneer of passivity.

    • KM April 11, 2016 (7:45 am)

      There is really nothing business can do about crime or “scumbags” on a public sidewalk, generally out of corporate policy. Crime must be enforced by SPD or local law enforcement, a business trying to deal with a criminal or potential criminal opens themselves up to lawsuits and risk. That’s why stores have policies about chasing down people who steal, it can injure the employee, criminal and open the business up to a lawsuit (injury, discrimination, property damage) should things go wrong. Speaking from experience, if an employee breaks their arm chasing a shoplifter down, the company won’t want to spring for the medical bills as the employee broke store policy.

      On another note, this is a major city with an understaffed police force. Crime exists and seems worse right now. We have nearly unlimited access to information about it, which affects how we measure crime rates. It is sad to hear that some people don’t feel safe here, this area has grown into a larger city and it isn’t the same one we grew up in decades ago, and we shouldn’t expect that either. We have a TON of improvements to make here in regards to dealing with crime, we have to remember that we live in a city and what that means for our expectations.

      • Seattlite April 11, 2016 (8:19 am)

        I agree with you on businesses’ liability issues.  However, Seattle being a city should not mean crime gone wild.  Seattle’s leadership is lacking in many areas.  Two important areas of poor leadership is citizen safety and a well staffed police department.  SPD does a great job; however, SPD’s hands are tied by DOJ and local leadership.  It’s a shame.  Being born and raised in Seattle has given me a front-row seat to the decline in safety, overdevelopment and increased density without infrastructure support and just flat out poor city planning.

        • KM April 11, 2016 (9:44 am)

          I agree, and don’t think crime needs to “go wild” because of our growth. We need a bunch of improvements in crime prevention and infrastructure development while considering that the current and future reality of the city is different than the past. I wonder how other growing cities deal with increasing/improving public safety with resident growth–there’s got to be something in place that allows for this to happen more smoothly than retroactive panic hiring to attempt to meet current needs. I like what you said about SPD having their hands tied, it’s really unfair to those who are dealing with this crime on a daily basis–what a tough job.

    • siouxie April 11, 2016 (10:33 am)

      Great description, “Icy veneer of passivity”

      This has always seemed to be the case to me.

      I am only a 2 year resident of West Seattle and I moved here because I loved the eclectic feel combined by the artistic bent and the friendly locals.  Never wanting to just barge in, I came in and embedded myself into the already existing culture that is now becoming a distant memory.

      West Seattle has changed dramatically in just 2 years.  I have tried to convince myself that with the onslaught of people coming in, perhaps there would be a little more involvement, eye contact if you will.  No, now on top of the icy veneer of passivity, we have a population I have always detested – where they look down their noses at you, hell-bent on coming in and changing everything cultural in West Seattle to their own cookie cutter world.  Well, I guess I can appreciate that they’re increasing the value of my property and I’ll be happy to sell to them (sooner than anticipated).

  • heather April 11, 2016 (8:52 am)

    Thank you for the reminder. I have been careless, feel comfy with my surroundings, and often don’t carry a handbag. Womens clothes usually have super shallow if any pockets so I have been lazy and put my keys, etc on the cart (I’m standing right there). I will certainly be more responsible from now on. 

  • Chris April 11, 2016 (9:22 am)

    Reminder there is a BECU ATM inside the Admiral Safeway store, which is safer than outside.  Nonetheless, still need to take care when entering your code, etc.

  • Cpeterson April 11, 2016 (9:50 am)

    For Pete’s sake… this is getting old. Can’t I just take my toddler to get groceries without being followed by a creepy old man asking me what I am doing, where I am going etc? Then I get home, read this and basically learn that when you shop at Westwood village, you can’t walk from the parking lot to the store without harassment, you can’t take the bus because of people strung out on the sidewalk, and you can’t leave your walled for a second or a gang of predators will distract you and take it? Why is shopping turning into an exhausting gauntlet? 

    On another note, a huge kudos to the staff at QFC. They are super friendly, welcoming and make it the best they can for you to shop there. They are  quick to give my baby  a sticker or balloon each time. They also have very friendly security guards at the doors who always make a point to wave at the baby.

    The answer is NOT to stop patronizing these businesses. I think they are doing great. I think that the police presence just needs to step up in Westwood Village and be there all the time. A better presence will discourage theft, loitering etc. 

    • WSB April 11, 2016 (9:56 am)

      Cpeterson – please note the original story here regarding wallet theft was at Trader Joe’s in the Triangle, not Westwood Village. As is not unusual, the comment discussion has meandered elsewhere. For the person who mentioned the bus stop – that is SPD and/or King County Transit Police’s jurisdiction. I can tell you I’ve heard at least two calls on the scanner in the past few weeks with police being called to respond to someone who was basically asleep – one stuck out vividly because it was described as a suspected DOA by the Roxhill Park restrooms, and when police arrived they said it was just someone “taking a nap in the sun.” – TR

  • Richard April 11, 2016 (10:20 am)

    And it is this issue exactly why I walk everywhere with sunglasses on and headphones in and put out a “don’t talk to me” vibe, and when the random person I don’t know tries to talk to me, I turn on the Seattle freeze and tell them to leave me alone. Thieves and swindlers are everywhere

  • Wsea98116 April 11, 2016 (2:49 pm)

    It is not rude to ignore greetings and comments from solicitors, and scammers.  When a bad egg asks you how you’re doing- he’s not sincere and doesn’t really care- you should not feel compelled to reply. Don’t open yourself up to be used by opportunists. 

  • anonyme April 11, 2016 (3:04 pm)

    Just to clarify, my experiences with the BECU ATM’s were inside the Roxbury Safeway – not on the street somewhere.

    And to clarify another point, the ‘icy veneer of passivity’ I mentioned earlier has always been a hallmark of PNW culture.  Nothing new. 

    Last, but not least: love me my cargo pants.  As far as I’m aware, nobody gets in my pants without me knowing about it.  Of course, the older I get, that could change.

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