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Cops: Serial purse-snatchers scoping out LI victims

Maureen Herman describes how she fought off a

Maureen Herman describes how she fought off a serial purse snatcher the night before in Baldwin. (Dec. 1, 2010) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A pair of purse-snatchers who Nassau police believe have been involved in 12 attacks since October may be picking out potential victims and following them home, detectives say.

Police don't believe the robbers are sitting on a neighborhood street just waiting for a victim. It's likely that somewhere during their drive, the victims, all women, are somehow attracting the robbers' attention.

"They're picking these people up somewhere," said Robbery Squad Commanding Officer Det. Sgt. John Giambrone. "A majority of these women are in their cars, traveling home."

"They're targeting women who seem to be traveling alone," Giambrone said.

In the latest case, Baldwin resident Maureen Herman, 56, was grabbed from behind around 7 p.m. Tuesday as she walked to her house alone after returning from the store.

Herman said at first she thought it was a friend or perhaps a relative, but then someone reached for her purse. "I told him, 'I don't have anything in there,' " Herman said Wednesday. " 'But you're not getting it.' "

She fell to the ground and started kicking the robber, described as between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-8, and 19 or 20 years old. The car is described as a dark-colored, possibly gray, four-door sedan.

Once Herman screamed, the man ran away. She called 911.

Police have linked two people to purse snatchings, including this one, since Oct. 23 in Baldwin, Bellmore, East Meadow, Hicksville, Levittown, Merrick, North Merrick and Wantagh.

They believe one man approaches a woman while the other waits in a getaway car.

Since the first week in November, police have increased patrols and are targeting areas they think the pair will strike next. But police would not say exactly which areas are being focused on or how many more patrol cars are being added.

Unmarked cars and officers out of uniform are also on the case, Giambrone said, though police would not reveal how many.

The attacks have happened from 6:30-11 p.m. The victims range in age from 26 to 81.

The biggest obstacle, Giambrone said, is the pattern of the attacks has been haphazard, and they generally have taken place in more isolated communities.

"They're not grabbing someone's pocketbook in a shopping area or a mall like Roosevelt Field. It's in areas where there's no one around and so that's made it more difficult," he said.

"There's not a lot of witnesses to be interviewed, so whatever information we're getting is from the victim," he said.

Police have released the sketch of one man, but not the other, said to be about 6-foot to 6-foot-2, and between 20 and 25 years old.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest. People with information about the case can call 800-244-8477. Callers can remain anonymous.

With Gary Dymski

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