Beware of purse-snatchers in wake of series of attacks

Posted: Updated:
By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

PEORIA, Ariz. - Peoria police arrested two people who have targeted elderly women shopping alone in stores in the West Valley.

Colten Hutchings, 18, and Jessica Oliver, 21, were arrested Monday night near 26th Avenue and Butler Drive.

Police spokesman Mike Tellef said one of the suspects would distract the victim while the other stole her purse. The pair would quickly charge up the credit cards and take any money they could.

Tellef said five women were victimized at the Fry's store near 91st Avenue and Unions Hills Drive in Peoria.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Surprise police served a search warrant on the suspects' vehicle and apartment and found three purses along with three guns and more than 9 grams of meth, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana.

Oliver told police during questioning that they targeted the elderly because they would not be able to remember what they looked like.

Oliver and Hutchings were booked on numerous felony counts of burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and outstanding warrants.

Peoria police warn people to remember a few things when out shopping:

- Always try to shop with another person. Thieves don’t like witnesses.

- For women, keep your purse close to you and don’t leave it where it can easily be taken.

- If you’re using a shopping cart and your purse has a strap with clips, un-clip the strap, wrap the strap around the cart handle and then re-clip the strap. The suspect won’t get far pulling a cart.

- Pay attention to your surroundings.

- For family members of our seniors, encourage them to take someone else with them or wait until you can take them shopping.

- If a suspect does grab your purse, don’t fight them for it, let it go. The risk of injury to you by fighting for your purse is too great.