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Police Warn of Purse Snatcher Hitting Area Churches

Police say the thief or thieves have been attending church services, waiting for parishioners to take communion, then stealing their purses.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A purse snatcher is hitting churches in St. Joseph and police want the community to be aware.

Police say the thief or thieves have been attending church services, waiting for parishioners to take communion, then stealing their purses.

Officers say this has been going on for about six months. The most recent purse snatching attempt happened Sunday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

Church officials say a woman was wandering the halls, behaving oddly. She eventually sat down in one of the pews for the service. When the rest of her row walked to the front of the church to take communion, she grabbed a purse and tried to leave.

One of the ushers stopped the woman before she made it to the parking lot.

"He stopped her and confronted her, asked her, 'is this your bag? Is that your bag?' And she looked and said it was sitting right beside me. And he again asked, 'is that your bag?' And she handed it to him and said I'm sorry, and she left. She hurried out the door," said Sandy Gumm, parishioner.

Officers say this is a reminder to be extra careful about personal belongings no matter where you are.

"There are apparently no boundaries that people won't cross at this point," said Cmdr. Janice Rothganger, St. Joseph Police Department. "So, you have to decide do you really need to take your purse to church with you? Can you maybe just take your id and put it in your pocket? Can you use a smaller clutch to carry the most necessary items then take that smaller purse with you when you do communion?"

A police detective, attending the service, was able to get a description of the suspect from witnesses.

So far, no arrests have been made. Police are still investigating.

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