BELLEVUE, Wash. — A crime that's been reported in California has made its way to Western Washington. So far, police say there have been six cases of thieves stealing jewelry off pedestrians.
"The variations in the vehicles, slight variations in the descriptions of the suspects, different ages of the kids that were with them tell us that this was a group and it's an organized, well-rehearsed tactic," said Bellevue Police Captain Joe Nault.
The suspects are believed to be part of an organized crime ring operating along the west coast.
Bellevue Police say the crime happens while the suspects create a chaotic interaction. The suspects who have been described as a man, woman and a child pull up in a car and start a conversation with a pedestrian. The conversation often includes a language barrier or a thick accent, which is difficult to understand. The suspects will use hand gestures and move closer to the victim. In some cases, they hand the victim fake jewelry or money. All of this is happening as they make physical contact and take a person's valuables.
"Two of the instances have involved Rolex watches worth several thousand dollars. The most recent one we had is very sad because it was a $6,000 necklace but apart from the monetary value, the necklace was given to the women by her recently deceased husband," said Nault.
Nault said out of the six cases reported this year, four have been in Bellevue, one in Kirkland and one on the Kitsap Peninsula. In four of the cases, the victims are in their 70s and don't speak English, which added to the confusion.
"A lot of things are happening at once, sort of a stimulus overload and then next thing you know their necklace or watch has been removed from them" said Nault.
The crime is hard to track because police believe the thieves use different rental cars and are often on the move. Nault said BPD has heard similar reports of this crime happening in San Diego.
"If you chose to wear jewelry, or nice things just be mindful of the distance you have with that person, what's actually happening and don't be afraid of maintaining distance by waking away or keeping some distance from that person. Also, don't be afraid to call 911," said Nault.