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'Baby stroller bandits' target moms shopping downtown

June 9, 2011 | 11:58 am

Police were looking Thursday for two women dubbed the "baby stroller bandits," suspected of lifting wallets from mothers shopping in downtown Los Angeles.

LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon said the women act as a team with one distracting and blocking the victim's view while the other quickly lifts wallets out of purses that have been placed in baby strollers.

The two have struck half a dozen times since late April around 5th and Los Angeles streets and to the north in the Fashion District, Vernon said.

"We've identified a trend in these kind of thefts over the last several months, and we want shoppers to be more aware," he said. "While the crime may seem minor, it's scary because the victim's child is so close and vulnerable."

Police released an image from surveillance video taken at a swap meet in the 500 block of South Los Angeles Street. It shows two middle-aged Latinas looking at a mother with a 23-month-old toddler in a stroller while her husband is standing nearby.

One suspect then makes an unsuccessful try to get a wallet out of the woman's purse, which is hanging off of the stroller. A few minutes later, the suspect tries again as her accomplice blocks the victim's view.

Vernon said all shoppers, especially mothers with strollers, "should be leery about anyone who approaches them or attempts to engage them in crowded swap meets, stores or outdoor bazaars."

Wallets and valuables should be kept in purses that are zippered shut and preferably carried over the shoulder, and valuables and purchases should never be left on top of strollers, he said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Det. Mike Mazzacano at (213) 972-1231.

Those wishing to remain anonymous may call Crimestoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477) or text 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S) via cellphone. Text messages should begin with the letters "LAPD."

Online tips may be sent through www.LAPDOnline.org.

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-- Andrew Blankstein
Twitter.com/@anblanx

Video: A surveillance video shows two middle-aged Latinas, the suspected "baby stroller bandits," looking at a mother with a 23-month-old toddler in a stroller while her husband is standing nearby. Credit: LAPD

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