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Police reopen wallet theft case after letter to the editor

By Gheni_Platenburg
June 8, 2010 at 1:08 a.m.


Steps to protect yourself:

Do not leave wallets, cell phones, or other items of value in your shopping cart or out in the open.

The most secure method is to keep your valuables on your person.

If you have to put your purse in the shopping cart, close the top and secure the purse to the cart by using the child seat belt or place your purse in the bottom portion of your basket.

Be cognizant that you have a valuable item in your shopping cart and do not to leave it alone or turn your back to it.

Remember that there are criminals out there who will target your wallet and purse. Do what you can to avoid becoming a victim.

Anyone with information regarding this crime is asked to call the 24-hour Victoria Crime Stoppers tip line at 361- 572-4200.

The Victoria Police Department reopened a theft case after a victim wrote a letter to the editor about her ordeal in Monday's Advocate.

The victim, Megan Hillyer, 20, had her wallet and its contents, which included $200 in cash, stolen from Walmart's cosmetics aisle about 6:20 p.m. Oct. 17.

To this day, Hillyer said, she is still "bothered" by the investigation, or lack thereof, of the theft by Walmart's loss prevention team and the police department.

"It seemed like nobody cared," said the Raisin resident. "I had to keep bugging them to get information."

Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure said Hillyer's case had been "administratively closed" because of a lack of suspects.

"This is an occasion where we did not do our best work. That's why we pushed the media release out to see if anyone recognizes the picture," said Ure.

He continued, "This case slipped through the cracks."

Hillyer said she was perusing the Almay cosmetics selection when the theft occurred.

"This girl distracted me. She was asking me what eyeliner worked best or something like that so I turned around to help her," said Hillyer.

When she turned around to provide assistance to the woman who had a young child with her, Hillyer said, out of the corner of her eye she saw a lady running away from her shopping cart.

Hillyer said her wallet, which was lying in the top of the cart, had been taken.

After recovering from the initial shock of having her property stolen, Hillyer said, she turned to the lady she was previously chatting with, however, she was nowhere to be found.

"When I turned back to the other girl. She had walked off too," said Hillyer. "It didn't dawn on me that it was probably a group thing until a couple of minutes later."

Hillyer alerted Walmart's loss prevention officers as well as the police department, but not much came of their investigation, she said.

"It took a couple of weeks for them to get back to me. When they did, they said the cameras didn't catch it," said Hillyer. "They pretty much told me there was nothing they could do about it."

After having received no news from investigators since November, Hillyer was prompted to write a letter to the editor, after reading a similar one that published a few weeks ago.

"The lady wrote about the same thing where it seemed like the officer wasn't very helpful," said Hillyer. " I wrote my letter to agree with that lady. I was frustrated that my stuff got stolen and they weren't doing anything about it."

Several factors could have contributed to the slow progress in Hillyer's case including the inability to clearly identify the suspects in the footage and an investigations caseload of 500-600 cases a month, Ure said.

"That's still no excuse. We should have done better," said Ure. "We don't run a perfect organization. We do make mistakes, but we try to learn from those mistakes."

An investigation is underway to identify the suspects involved.

Hillyer described the decoy as a woman of average height in her early 20s. She was heavy set and had long, dark curly hair. Although she did not get a good look at the woman who ran off with the wallet, Hillyer said, she remembered that both women were Hispanic.

Hillyer said she was happy her case has been reopened.

"I hope they find her and she gets what she deserves," she said. "'It took a lot of money to get my license and cards replaced plus I had to go through all that trouble."

She added, "She is still out there and could be doing this to other people."

Ure gave advice on how to prevent becoming a victim of this type of theft.

"We always recommend to people that they never ever leave anything of value unattended in a shopping basket because these people are very good at what they do."

Hillyer said she has made changes in her shopping habits since becoming a victim.

"Now, I buckle my purse in the basket," she said.

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