Cops and Courts, Latest News

COVID-era investigations face new obstacles


GRANVILLE — A police officer in Monongalia County says a recent theft investigation has highlighted another way the pandemic has changed, and is changing daily life.

Recently, a woman shopping at a store in Granville was robbed of her purse. The woman reported the theft to police, but the criminals had already managed to charge more than $10,000 on one of her credit cards.

Granville Police Department Sgt. Ronald Kerns said in the past police would post a close-up image of the suspect entering or leaving the store and another image would show a vehicle type or license number. In this case, masks obscured the suspects’ faces and poor quality images are impeding police ability to pull a license number from surveillance footage.

“Everyone has cameras and everyone is recording, however with the mask situation it makes it hard and retail corporate policies make it hard to get some of the video because they are afraid of lawsuits,” Kerns said.

Kerns said 90% of victims in these types of cases are women, often alone or distracted by small children. Most times these are “crimes of opportunity.”

“Don’t leave your purse in the cart, keep it on your arm and zipped up at all times,” Kerns said. “If you are going to leave it in the cart, it definitely needs to be zipped up.”

Potential thieves can try to blend in at a store and prey on unsuspecting shoppers. Always know where your purse or wallet is and keep in tune with your surroundings for anything that might not seem right.

“If you notice that someone just happens to be in the same aisle as you all the time and they seem to be following you, you should make your way to a store employee,” Kerns said. “Nine-times out of 10 that’s going to work to get them away from you.”

Once the thief has hit, the victim is in a race against time. Focusing on financial security and reporting the crime should be priority rather than conducting a search.

“Call your credit card companies, that’s the first thing you should do and get that started because as soon as they get it, they’re headed to another store to use your credit cards,” Kerns said.

This investigation is ongoing and police are still looking for tips that could bring a resolution for the victim. If you can help, call 304-599-5080.