Deputies issue warning about purse snatchings at Costco stores

The King County Sheriff’s Office is warning people to be watchful after a string of purse snatchings reported in store parking lots in King and Pierce counties.

Deputies say while women have been targeted at stores like Trader Joe’s and Safeway, there have been more than 60 reports of purses being stolen in the parking lots of Costco stores around Puget Sound this year.

There have been 19 reported purse snatchings at Costco in Tacoma, 15 at the Tukwila location, 10 in Covington, 10 in Federal Way and 7 in Seattle since the beginning of the year, according to deputies.

“I was loading my groceries.” said Stella Luna, who told KIRO 7 she didn’t immediately realize her purse had been stolen last month from Costco in Issaquah. “I turned on my car and it said key not detected.”

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Luna said her insulin, cellphone and car key were inside her purse, along with her wallet. Police were called.

“The first thing they said is – you need to call all your credit cards,” said Luna.

The thieves racked up nearly $6,000 in credit card charges in about 20 minutes, she said.

“It was frightening,” said Luna. “Frustrating and I was really, really mad.”

King County deputies say the groups of thieves include teenagers and young adults who have even stolen purses by force. No one has been seriously hurt, deputies said.

“We’ve even had it where a suspect has gotten into somebody’s car while they’re sitting in there and grabbed it off their shoulder and ran,” said King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ryan Abbott.

Sgt. Abbott said the thieves typically go after people who are distracted, and are using stolen rental cars, without plates, as getaway cars.

There have been arrests -- one person booked twice for the crime, according to Sgt. Abbott, who said the criminals are working in groups.

“Groups of four,” said Sgt. Abbott. “Sometimes it’s even two carloads.”

The sheriff’s office recommends locking doors if your purse is inside the car as you’re loading groceries in the back of the vehicle.

Investigators have not released surveillance video or pictures of any of the suspects in the most recent purse snatchings.