A pair of recent purse snatchings targeting elderly women has Medford police concerned and warning people to keep a close eye on handbags and wallets containing important cards and documents.
The thefts are not related, according to Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau, but both are disturbing in how brazenly the suspects behaved.
On Wednesday, a 74-year-old woman was loading groceries into her car in the north Fred Meyer parking lot when a Ford sport utility vehicle sped by.
The driver reached out of his window and grabbed the woman's purse, which was sitting in her grocery cart, Budreau said.
"The suspect actually stuck his arm out of the SUV as it was moving and snatched the purse," Budreau said. "He then fled the scene."
The woman was not able to get a license plate number, but described the SUV as a large, gray-colored Ford, much like an Expedition.
The SUV had a spare "doughnuts" tire on the back on the driver's side, Budreau said.
"The woman had her cards, money, driver's license and car keys in the purse," Budreau said.
Another purse-related crime happened two weeks ago on Haven Street in Medford.
An 86-year-old woman had just returned from the grocery store and was taking groceries into her home when a man jumped on her porch where her purse was sitting and went through it, stealing her debit card, Budreau said.
"She didn't see him get the card, and just thought he tried to steal the purse when she interrupted him," Budreau said.
However, the suspect, whom police later identified as Bobby Joe McNatt, 43, took the card and went on a shopping spree across Medford, Budreau said.
He bought $1,000 worth of items at the Walmart on Highway 99, Budreau said, adding the store's surveillance cameras caught him in the act.
"He had a cart full of merchandise," Budreau said. "Unfortunately, the cashier did not ask enough questions and allowed him to use the card, even though he is an adult male using an 86-year-old woman's debit card."
Budreau said McNatt instructed the cashier to run the card as credit, not debit. This allowed him to simply sign for the purchase and not punch in a debit password number, Budreau said.
"This is a problem on the retail end," Budreau said. "They sometimes make it too easy to commit these crimes by not having enough safeguards to protect people who might have had their identities stolen."
Officers tracked McNatt to his motel room on North Riverside Avenue on Tuesday.
They arrested him on nine counts of identity theft, five counts of credit card fraud, attempted credit card fraud, first-degree theft, attempted first-degree theft, second-degree theft, two counts of second-degree theft and two counts of third-degree theft.
He was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on $40,000 bail.
Budreau said the elderly victim in this case was living modestly and on a fixed income.
"This can really affect someone financially," Budreau said. "The suspect in this case had plenty of time to drain the account before he was arrested."
Budreau reminded women to keep a close watch on their purses.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email email@example.com.