NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police said an 85-year-old woman in a wheelchair had her purse stolen in the Bronx.
The incident, which happened around 2:15 p.m. Sunday, was captured on surveillance video.
The elderly victim, Bernice Starnes, was sitting in her wheelchair in the area of East 179th Street and Marmion Avenue. That’s when Starnes said a woman walked up and the two began chatting.
“She said ‘Hello’ and then we said, ‘It’s a beautiful day.’ She said, ‘It sure is,’ and that’s when she grabbed my bag and ran down the street,” Starnes said.
Police said the suspect was seen on video snatching the bag and taking off. The purse contained cash and a bank card, police said.
“She grab my pocketbook and I said, ‘Bring my pocketbook back here,’ so I tried to get out of my wheelchair to try to run after her,” Starnes said.
The suspect is also seen on surveillance video throwing something into a garbage can.
Starnes is described by her neighbors as a nice person who they refer to as grandma or Miss Lady. They said she lives alone and can often be seen sitting outside her apartment building smoking cigarettes, but that many in the building pitch in to help her.
“People in the building help her,” neighbor Tarsha Stallworth told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport. “When she wants to get downstairs or if she needs a store run. She doesn’t deserve that at all.”
“I see this lady every morning,” neighbor Melissa Mayo told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon. “She’s out here, she says hi to people, she doesn’t bother anybody. She keeps to herself so when I heard it this morning on the news, it really hurt me a lot.”
The incident was reminiscent of an unrelated robbery last week when police said surveillance video captured a man allegedly stealing $600 from an elderly woman’s bra and she sat in a wheelchair in East Harlem.
The suspect in that case was later arrested and charged.
Late Monday morning, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said there is not a spike in crimes against the elderly.
“The public gets outraged about that, and appropriately so,” he said. “But on the positive side, it really does bring the public forward, helping us to find these people.”
Monday morning, officers from the 48th precinct paid Starnes a visit along with a donation of $130 to help offset the money taken from her and to let her know people care.
“Rest assured, we’re gonna catch her,” one officer said.
For Starnes, the gesture brought her to tears.
“That’s why they’re New York’s best,” she said.
Police described the suspect as a black woman, about 5-foot-6 and 240 pounds.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.