Atlanta police are alerting the public to a purse-snatching gang targeting women, mostly in the affluent Buckhead area, and getting away with thousands of dollars per victim.
Police call the bandits the “Felony Lane Gang” for their alleged habit of using the farthest lane from a drive-up bank teller to cash stolen checks – the better not to be recognized.
The suspects, believed to be from South Florida, lurk around places women might leave purses in their vehicles for short periods – outside schools during student pick-up and drop-off times, and at post offices, parks and gyms.
“It seems to be a place where someone would have in their mind, ‘I will be in and out real quick,’” Atlanta police Detective Joseph York told Channel 2 Action News.
The thieves look for a driver’s license and checkbook in a victim’s purse, police said. A female suspect in disguise then goes through the far lane of a bank drive-up to cash a check, using the driver’s license as identification.
“A lot of times the cases have involved wigs, makeup, glasses -- different things to hide their identity,” York said.
Police reported eight confirmed cases, all believed to be linked, between March 6 and 21 – six in Atlanta, one in DeKalb County and one in Cobb County. The average loss for each victim has been $10,000 to $15,000, police said.
One of their victims told Channel 2 that she lost far more -- $18,000 in less than four hours after thieves took a purse from the passenger side of her car after she left it unattended outside Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead.
She had stopped to drop off her 5-year-old at the school there about 8:20 a.m. on a recent day.
“They saw that I didn’t have a bag on my shoulder, and they went in for the kill within a minute and a half,” Natalie Wilson said.
When she returned to her vehicle, the purse was gone.
Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call police or Atlanta Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.