ST. PETERSBURG — The Snell Isle neighborhood alert warned of the purse snatchers.
The men were "driving around shopping center parking lots daily snatching purses by either ripping them off your arm while you walk through the parking lot or … from your cart when you step away momentarily."
Friday police announced that they had arrested one man in the series of purse snatchings that took place between Dec. 28 and Tuesday in St. Petersburg and Largo.
Timothy E. Jackson, 28, of 4301 11th Ave. S faces a long list of charges. They include two counts of fraudulent use of personal identification information, two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, two counts of possession of stolen credit cards, grand theft of a motor vehicle, possession of marijuana and driving on a suspended driver's license.
Police said the car used in the thefts was a 2008 black Ford Fusion that had been stolen in Pinellas Park on Dec. 19.
According to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, Jackson's arrests date to January 2000, when he was charged with vehicle theft. He served time in prison from September 2008 to October for robbery.
Law enforcement officials believe two people were involved in the purse snatchings, police spokesman Mike Puetz said. One was the getaway driver, while the other snatched the purse from the victim's hand or shopping cart, he said.
"They would usually take the credit cards and try to use them at department stores immediately," he said.
Police are looking for the second suspect.
The snatchings, sometimes two a day, occurred at Tyrone Gardens Shopping Center, 1050 58th St. N; Tyrone Square Mall, near JCPenney and Sears; Walmart, 201 34th St. N; Publix, 3501 49th St. N; Publix in the Northeast Park Shopping Center, 3700 Fourth St. N; Target, 8151 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N; Target, 4450 Park St. N; and Family Dollar 11849 Seminole Blvd., Largo.
Barbara Heck, past president of the Snell Isle Property Owners Association, sent out the email alert.
"My concern was that everybody be safe when they go out," she said. "This was a wake-up call for all of us to be very careful when we go shopping, be aware of our surroundings and, for us ladies, our purses."
Puetz had some advice to offer.
"The main tip is to be aware of your surroundings, look for people who are overly interested in what you're doing," he said.
He suggested securing purses with the child restraints attached to shopping carts or with a clip brought from home.
"It doesn't make it foolproof, it just prevents them from quickly removing it and running," Puetz said.
Keeping bags on the shoulder is also a good idea, he said.
"I think it has to do with opportunity. It's important to pay attention."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.