Westerville police seeking information in connection to purse thefts

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

The Westerville Division of Police is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying a suspect wanted in connection with purse thefts that occurred in the Westerville Square parking lot.

The city of Westerville released a photo Jan. 19 that shows a suspect wearing a gray sweatshirt, a camouflage jacket and dark pants.

The Westerville Division of Police is seeking information about this suspect in connection with recent purse thefts at Westerville Square.

Anyone with information should email tipline@westerville.org or call 614-901-6866.

Police said the purse thefts occurred in the Westerville Square parking lot, 50 E. Schrock Road, on Jan. 4 and 14.

One woman was targeted while leaving a store, and a second woman was targeted while entering the store, according to reports.

A woman was entering Walmart, 50 E. Schrock Road, when a man ran up behind her and grabbed her purse, according to a report received at 9:40 a.m. Jan. 14.

The man struck the woman on her right side with his palm, causing her to lose possession of her purse, reports said. 

The man then entered the right rear passenger seat of a Honda Insight that sped west through the parking lot toward State Street.

Westerville police discovered the vehicle’s registration had been entered as stolen through the Columbus Division of Police. 

The man is described as a young, dark-skin male between age 15 to 17 years old. He was wearing a red hooded winter coat, light-color pants and black tennis shoes, according to reports.

In another incident reported at 2:14 p.m. Jan. 4, an unidentified person snatched a woman’s purse from her shopping cart as she walked to her vehicle in the Walmart parking lot.

The subject(s) who stole the purse returned minutes later and stole the woman’s vehicle while she was inside Walmart calling police, reports said.

Her vehicle is a dark gray 2020 Honda CRV. 

The suspect arrived and initially left in a black Kia Forte. The vehicle’s registration had been entered as stolen out of Columbus, reports said.

A witness to the incident said a young Black male exited the Kia that was occupied by four Black males, according to reports.

She said the suspect was dressed in all black and was in his late teens to early 20s.

The entire incident was captured on surveillance video, according to reports.

These incidents are similar to numerous purse snatchings that have occurred around north and northeast Columbus, according to a Jan. 15 news release from the city of Westerville. 

The news release offers the following safety tips to avoid becoming a victim:

• Stay alert and aware of your surroundings.

• Avoid texting and talking on your phone or other distractions.

• Secure a purse/bag on your body. Close or zip any open portions, pull the strap in the crossbody position if possible and place inside or underneath a coat/jacket.

• Secure your purse/bag inside a locked vehicle before loading/unloading. 

• Keep your purse/bag on your body as much as possible during your trip. Do not place in the cart or inside other bags while shopping.

• Shop in pairs or small groups when possible. 

• Avoid carrying cash, gift cards and unnecessary debit/credit cards or other valuables. 

• Park in a spot that is open and visible. In the evening, park as close as possible to light poles.

• If someone approaches you with a weapon, throw your purse/bag away from you to create distance and run in the opposite direction. 

If you see something suspicious, call 911 immediately.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla