Smash-and-grab gang targeting Naperville

September 23, 2011 (NAPERVILLE, Ill.)

The thieves target locations where the victims are likely to leave their purses or their wallets in their vehicles. These places include fitness centers, parks and daycare centers.

Naperville police said the thieves have hit a parking lot outside the Barn Recreation Center a couple of times within the last week. In all, the gang has stolen about 60 purses from cars for a loss of about $100,000.

Police say the suspects are men who watch parking lots for caucasian women to pull up and leave their vehicle without a purse. They then break in and steal the purse. The gang then immediately heads to a bank where they have a caucasian woman cash a check in the drive-thru lane using the stolen identity.

Police say the suspects cashing the checks use the furthest lane away from the teller window. That's what has earned them the nickname the Felony Lane Gang.

"They do it pretty quick unfortunately. It's a rather fast operation," said Naperville police Sgt. John Westlove . "You break into the car and you get to the bank and before the victim knows it (and) can make the police report, they may have already been off with some of your money from your bank account."

Police believe the gang was originally based in Florida. They used the same tactics to rob women in several suburban communities as well as a number of other states. For many Naperville residents, it's alarming.

"It's so scary," Naperville resident Debra Martinez. "All that damage just for a purse."

The police say under no circumstances should women leave their purses in their car. Hiding a purse under a seat or in a glove box is not safe, either.

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