HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Police are hoping to bust a group of men they say targeted several unsuspecting women at Baybrook Mall, running up to them and grabbing their purses, wallets and phones, and then taking off.
At least three incidents happened within minutes of each other on the evening of Feb. 16. All of the victims were women.
"I watch the news all the time and I say that's never going to happen to me," said Jessica Aponde, a friend of one of the victims.
Aponde said she forgot something in her car and turned back to grab it while her friend kept walking to the entrance of the mall. When she caught up to her, she saw a group of men standing around her friend, and she initially thought they all knew each other.
"I didn't really act on it until I saw her swinging and fighting," she said.
The men made off with her friend's wallet and cellphone, and she says then proceeded to steal from several other people in the area.
In one case captured on security camera, a man runs up to three women walking toward their car and appears to grab something before running off to a getaway car, where several others can be seen hopping in.
"The reality is that they probably selected you for a reason," said Trae Drake, of Krav Maga Houston.
He says distracted people are the number one targets for thieves, and points out that we quickly forget how valuable our everyday items, like a smartphone, can be to thieves.
"Putting your phone away anytime you are in a transitional space, and that would be you're walking from one building to another building," he said.
Drake also said everyone needs to be paying attention to their surroundings and watching out for odd behavior, as well as people who stand out that might be a potential threat.
"It's a cluster of behaviors you're looking for. Those may or may not be an indication that somebody has bad intentions, but the point is that you notice them," he said.
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Purse snatchers target women shopping at Baybrook Mall in crime spree