GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities say crooks are targeting Michigan women, taking their purses from parking lots at day cares, parks and gyms as part of the “Felony Lane Gang.”
The Kent County Sheriff’s Department says the thieves hang out at parking lots and watch for women to leave their purses in their cars. When they do, the thieves smash out windows and take the purses, causing thousands of dollars of damage.
“I just immediately started crying. I didn’t know what to do,” said Michelle McClung, whose purse was stolen.
She said she left her car in a parking lot near a park for less than an hour as she played with her daughter. When she returned to her car, she found her window was smashed. There was glass on the ground and her purse was gone — even though she had tried to hide it.
“I had the purse kind of under (the seat) and tucked a little bit,” McClung explained.
She said it happened on a Saturday afternoon when the park was busy.
“I’m quite certain that they were watching me,” she aid.
The sheriff’s department says it was the Felony Lane Gang.
“It’s real. It’s very real. It’s been around for a long time now,” Sgt. Joel Roon said.
The sheriff’s department says the thieves move in and out of cities. The earliest reports came from Florida in 2004.
“I have seen them and Kent County for an estimated 10 years or so,” Roon said.
He said that over the past few months, Felony Lane Gang thieves have hit Cascade Township and Norton Shores in West Michigan, as well as Grand Blanc, Canton and Lapeer on the other side of the state.
“This group tends to be fairly bold in what they’re willing to do get the valuables,” Roon said.
It’s not your typical gang — “Felony Lane Gang” doesn’t refer to a specific group, but rather a type of crime.
They typically break a car window to avoid a car alarm going off and leaving behind fingerprints. Then they grab the bag and use a woman in a wig to impersonate the victim. That woman goes to a bank drive-thru and uses the victim’s cards to take money from her account.
The name Felony Lane Gang comes from the fact that the crooks use the drive-thru lane farthest from the bank so the teller won’t be able to see it’s someone else.
McClung lost a total of $5,000.
“I just want to make people aware of what’s going on. I definitely didn’t think this could happen to me,” she said.
The best advice to avoid becoming a victim is keep your purse and valuables with you.