NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police say a woman on a city-wide crime spree has struck nearly a dozen times.
As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported, police say the woman distracts store employees so she can steam from them. She has gotten away with thousands of dollars in cash and property, police said.
Investigators have released clear surveillance images of the suspect, and exclusive CBS2 video shows the suspect in action.
Police say the woman enters businesses and steals merchandise or takes customers’ and workers’ belongings, including purses or wallets.
She has been linked to at least nine such incidents dating back to February in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
Investigators say the woman last struck on Oct. 25, when she allegedly stole a laptop from ViVi Bubble Tea on Allen Street on the Lower East Side.
Video shows her looking around and trying to grab a laptop, only to knock it over. The manager makes sure the computer is OK and puts it back on the table, and walks away.
At that point, the suspect moves in to swipe it.
“Maybe 10 minutes after, we realized that the laptop wasn’t there anymore,” said ViVi Bubble Tea manager Annie Chen.
Police say the woman – described as being in her 50s – is always wearing glasses and a head wrap. She carries a black and red bag.
Employees at the bubble tea shop said in their case, there was an accomplice who ordered three bubble tea floats — the item on the menu that takes the longest to make — so they would be distracted while she headed to the back
It was a similar situation days earlier at Inaka Restaurant in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
“She says she want to order for pickup, yeah — I give her the menu. She check for the menu. Then I just go back to the kitchen,” said Rita Li.
When Li returned, her phone was gone – along with her ID and credit card.
That same day, police said the suspect stole a customer’s bag from under a table at a Brooklyn restaurant.
The biggest haul was a tray of rings worth almost $40,000 from Sang Sang Jewelry on Canal Street back in June.
The suspect had asked an employee to fix a watch, the owner said. And when she walked away to do it, “she take a whole tray like this – diamond; blue sapphire; ruby; emerald ring,” said Sang Sang Jewelry owner Jackie Chen.
Some store owners say employees are now keeping their personal items in back rooms instead of out front. They are also considering installing additional surveillance cameras.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74682). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.