COLUMBIA, Md. (WUSA9) -- Police say thieves are breaking into cars and stealing purses near day care centers, gyms, schools and parks, and then using the victims' personal information to commit fraud.
Detectives say they have seen this activity up and down the east coast, and believe there is likely a network of people working together to commit the crimes.
Howard County police say victims have reported leaving their purses in locked cars as they "run in" to pick up children, take a class at the gym, or walk their dogs and return to their windows smashed and purse gone.
Police say the incidents have occurred near the following locations:
- Hillsborough Road dog park, Ellicott City
- Elkridge Elementary School, Elkridge
- Columbia Athletic Club, Columbia
- Columbia Academy, Columbia (2 cases)
- Top Shape Fitness, Columbia
- Columbia Gymnastics, Columbia
- Columbia Swim Center, Columbia
Police say women should take their purse everywhere, even if it's only for a minute, or lock it in your trunk. If your purse is stolen, police say you have to report it to your bank immediately.
According to police, the thieves aren't using credit cards, they are using checks that take time to move through the system.
Police urge citizens to call 911 if you see any suspicious activity