MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group of thieves are targeting purses across the metro.

The pickpockets have hit Minneapolis, Roseville, St. Louis Park, Brooklyn Park and Maple Grove.

Some members of the ring have been caught on camera. Minneapolis Police are looking for help from the public to stop them.

They hope releasing images of those behind this organized theft ring may lead to their arrests.

Investigators say they work in pairs and prey on stores and restaurants where no one suspects they are up to no good.

“They hunt, they know where to go in crowded places,” Sgt. Brian Sand said.

He says the people behind this fraud ring are professional.

“They’re dressed nice, they’re very slick,” he said.

Sand says they scope out crowded shops and blend in so no one suspects what they are doing.

“Purses hanging on the back of chairs are just easy, easy targets to get,” he said.

Sand says a man and woman have been caught on camera taking purses out of restaurants and grocery stores.

“They just want those credit cards,” Sand said. “You know, they’ll dump the purse in a garbage can or something so they don’t get caught with it.”

They take the credit cards to big box stores like Target and buy gift cards that they use to buy merchandise or sell to people they know.

According to police, the ring has hit crowded restaurants and stores across the metro.

They’ve victimized people in crowded shops like Patisserie 46 in the Kingfield neighborhood.

“We often have people kind of moseying around, looking around, trying to find a spot,” Patisserie 46’s Mandy Heathcote said.

She says the pair recently preyed on customers when the restaurant was crowded.

“Now that we know that it’s just not us, we really want to make sure that people are aware,” Heathcote said.

She says a customer had her purse taken while she sat at a table with friends.

Heathcote is spreading the word so customers know how to protect themselves from professional thieves.

“They’ll do five, six times a day,” Sand said. “You know, that’s thousands and thousands of dollars of, you know, iPads and gift cards, and it’s very lucrative.”

Police are not sure if those responsible are from Minneapolis because many of the gift cards were used in Chicago.

Sgt. Sand says to avoid being a victim, don’t hang your purse on your chair or put it under the table.

If you do keep it on the ground, make sure it’s zipped and the strap is under one of the chair legs so it can’t be taken.

If you know who the suspects are, contact Minneapolis Police or call 911.

Reg Chapman

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