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West Hartford police warn shoppers about distraction thefts

A recent incident - the third incident in the last four months - happened at a supermarket parking lot.

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — A 64-year-old woman in West Hartford recently fell victim to a type of theft that police in the area are seeing more and more occurring.

It is called "distraction theft" and it usually involves two people distracting their victim in some way.

In the incident on Tuesday, the woman was in the parking lot of Whole Foods in Bishops Corner around 1 p.m.

"Usually we’re seeing elderly victims. It has been females for us," said Sgt. Amanda Martin of the West Hartford Police Department. 

In this incident, a man held up a tire lug nut to the woman and told her it fell from her car, Martin said.

RELATED: New license plate readers tested in West Hartford to enhance safety

Naturally concerned, she got out of her car and that is when a woman pushing a cart leaned into her open driver-side door. 

"She went over to say 'hey, what’re you doing?' The female walked away and as the female’s walking away, the male took off running," added Martin. 

It is being called a distraction theft - one person distracts the victim and another person does the stealing. 

Police told FOX61 that the woman later noticed her wallet was gone and within minutes, the thieves attempted to make fraudulent charges on one of her cards but were unsuccessful. 

Martin said this is the third incident in the last four months and they have all taken place in supermarket parking lots. 

RELATED: Two suspects arrested in West Hartford carjacking

"We have seen people that act like they are having an emergency," she said. 

The suspects are described as such: a man with a heavy accent with short stature, black hair, wearing a surgical face mask, and a blue shirt with white stripes and jean shorts. 

The woman was petite with her hair pulled back into a ponytail, also wearing a face mask and a long, beige tunic. 

"After hearing about this, I’ll probably keep an extra eye out," said Hayden Neubert of West Hartford. 

"Bad things happen. I think this is safer than most towns and I feel really comfortable," said James Cohen of West Hartford. 

RELATED: West Hartford police warn about check scam

Police are sharing these tips for shoppers: 

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Be wary of strangers
  • Place valuables in a hidden area inside your car
  • Park in a well-lit area 

The two thieves are still on the loose. Police are urging all shoppers to keep their heads on a swivel and to report any suspicious activity. 

Police are trying to obtain CCTV of the theft and possibly from stores where the victim's credit cards were charged.

Carmen Chau is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at cchau@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


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