HAMDEN, Connecticut (WTNH) — A string of purse snatchings has shoppers in several towns on edge.

At least three happened in parking lots in North Haven and Hamden in the last week, with the most recent happening Monday in the BJs parking lot on Universal Drive in North Haven.

An 84-year-old woman putting items in her car had her purse snatched by a man in a passing car, North Haven police said.

Surveillance video released by the police department shows a person leaning out of the rear window and grabbing her purse right out of her hands. Police said the suspect vehicle was stolen and involved in similar crimes in nearby towns.

Video courtesy of the North Haven Police Department

Police said purse snatchings have been reported in Hamden, Wallingford, North Branford and Guilford.

“A little scary,” said New Haven resident Danielle Petrovich as she pushed a cart through that same lot. What would she do now that she knew?

“Definitely continue to be aware of my surroundings.”

Some shoppers News 8 spoke with Tuesday were shocked and wary, including Linda Esposito of East Haven.

“When I get out of the car, look around, and those types of things, instead of just jumping out, going in and shopping,” Esposito said.

In the Kohls parking lot in Hamden, police said an 81-year-old woman was walking to her car on May 9, when a short, thin, Black man came up behind her and grabbed her purse. She fell down and had to go to the hospital.

In the Aldi parking lot, at about 5:30 p.m. on May 12, a woman told police she was putting her shoulder bag into the front seat of her car when a person entered her car, grabbed that bag, ran off, and fled in a dark-colored sedan.

“We strongly believe that they are connected,” Hamden acting police chief Timothy Wydra said. “I don’t know how many are involved in this, but it’s usually a small number of bad actors committing these crimes.”

Anne Persico from New Jersey is visiting her sister in East Haven. When asked whether she would fight back or just let a thief have her property, she said, “I think I might let them have it, because you have to be careful.”

That is exactly what authorities say to do.

“You guys out there who’s doing this, respect the public,” said Hamden resident Kendall Jefferson. “You wouldn’t want your mother’s purse to be snatched, your aunt’s purse to be snatched. Karma is something. What goes around comes around.”

Police are stepping up patrols in Hamden, and Wydra encourages everyone to take steps to better protect themselves.

The Hamden Police Department shared the following safety tips:

  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Avoid driving or shopping alone when possible
  • Do not leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart
  • When possible, avoid taking your purse with you. Instead, carry your valuables in your pockets
  • Do not carry a large amount of money
  • Close and lock your doors when parking and do not leave any valuables inside
  • If you sense trouble, get away as quickly as you can
  • Walk with your head up and eyes alert
  • When returning to your vehicle, have your keys accessible and unlock your door as soon as possible. When you get inside your car, immediately lock your doors.  
  • Always be alert and aware of your surroundings
  • If you are robbed, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Anyone with information on any of these cases is asked to call police right away.

The video below aired in our 10 p.m. newscast on May 15, 2023.