Pandemic-era investigations face new hurdles, police urge security and situational awareness

GRANVILLE, W.Va. – A Monongalia County police officer said a recent robbery investigation highlighted another way the pandemic has changed and is changing our lives.

Recently, a woman shopping at a store in Granville had her purse stolen. The woman reported the theft to the police, but the criminals had already managed to charge over $10,000 to one of the credit cards.

Granville Police Sergeant. Ronald Kerns said that in the past, police would display a close-up image of the suspect entering or exiting the store and another image would show a vehicle type or license number. In this case, the masks obscured the faces of the suspects and the poor quality footage prevents police from extracting a license number from the surveillance footage.

“Everyone has cameras and everyone is recording but with the mask situation it makes it difficult and the policies of the retail companies make it difficult to get some of the video because they are afraid prosecution,” Kerns said.

Kerns said 90% of victims in these types of cases are women, often alone or distracted by young children. Most of the time, these “crimes of opportunity”.

“Don’t leave your purse in the cart, keep it over your arm and zipped up at all times,” Kerns said. “If you’re going to leave it in the cart, it definitely needs to be zipped up.”

Would-be thieves may try to blend into a store and prey on unsuspecting shoppers. Always know where your purse or wallet is and stay tuned to your surroundings for anything that might not seem right.

“If you notice that someone is in the same aisle as you all the time and they seem to be following you, you should approach a store employee,” Kerns said. “Nine times out of 10 this will work to keep them away from you.”

Once the thief strikes, the victim is engaged in a race against time. Focusing on financial security and reporting the crime should be the priority rather than conducting a search.

“Call your credit card companies, that’s the first thing you should do and start because as soon as they get it, they go to another store to use your credit cards,” Kerns said.

This investigation is ongoing and the police are still looking for clues that could provide a solution to the victim. If you can help, please call 304-599-5080.

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