Police departments in New York and New Jersey said that a nationwide smash-and-grab gang might have moved into the region to pilfer from cars and steal women’s purses.
Police in Rockland and Bergen counties have both issued alerts about the so-called “Felony Lane Gang,” a crime network that is supposedly active in at least 35 other states and targets purses and wallets left in cars to get bank cards and cash.
One Paramus, New Jersey, woman who asked to not be identified because she fears for her safety told NBC 4 New York believes that thieves with the syndicate shattered the window of her car as she took her daily walk with a friend. Witnesses told her the thieves ran out of a car with license plates from Massachusetts.
Paramus police were called to investigate after the smash-grab and determined that the robbery had the hallmarks of the gang.
Surveillance footage from a similar burglary attributed to the Felony Lane Gang in Massachusetts showed a man smash through the front window of an SUV before opening the door and stealing items from inside.
Thieves have also been blamed for thefts in Nanuet, New York. One woman, Lori Cowen, said that five cars at a little league baseball field were hit on Sunday.
Cowen said she’s not going to stop going to the park because of the thefts, but she is being more alert.
“We came back the next day and said we weren't going to let that stop us,” she said.
Representatives with the crime-fighting consulting firm Wynyard Group told NBC Washington earlier this month that the gang stakes out places like parks, shopping centers and day cares, then smashes windows to get at any purses and wallets before heading to the bank to try to cash checks or withdraw money. They often use the furthest lane out at a bank drive-thru in order to avoid detection.
Matt Melton, a senior consultant with the group, said the gang has been moving north from South Florida over the last 10 years.
"You take a step back and you realize it’s a national organization that’s costing Americans tens of millions of dollars," Melton said.
Police in Massachusetts said the sophisticated crime organization recruits members from across the nation. Even though they're brazen, they're hard to track down, police tell NECN.
"They use rental cars in various people's names. Oftentimes the females who are doing the check fraud may or may not be from the area, and if they are from the area, often they don't know the people they are working for -- maybe by first name or have limited contact information," Medway Police Det. Matthew Reardon told NECN.