Police warn shoppers to keep an eye on wallets, purses after seeing more thefts

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LEAWOOD, Kan. -- Do you know where your wallet is?

Leawood police are warning shoppers to keep a close eye on their personal items. They arrested a woman Saturday for stealing a wallet from another woman's purse at Trader Joe's on West 119th Street. They say it's a growing issue.

On Saturday, Khela Brewer was running errands when the unexpected happened.

"I was shopping at Trader Joe's, and I had my purse in the child section seat, and I looked over to the frozen section to pick up the items," Brewer said. "I felt something brush against me. And I noticed that my purse was open, and my wallet was missing. So I looked over my shoulder and screamed, 'Give me back my wallet.' I saw a woman take it from her scarf and toss it into the produce. So I grabbed it, and I followed her and snapped her picture while I was calling 911."

Leawood police quickly came to the rescue and arrested Romi Ortiz-Venezuela for theft. She's charged with misdemeanor theft and is being held in the Johnson County jail on a $50,000 bond.

"We've had about 10 of these thefts since the start of 2017 here in Leawood," said Capt. Brad Robbins with the Leawood Police Department. "And I know they've struck similar stores in other cities as well, including Kansas City."

Robbins said although it might not be the same people every time, there's always a similar pattern.

"They'll come in and either try to pickpocket a wallet or grab one from an unattended purse," Robbins said. "And they very quickly will go to a nearby box store and get electronics or gift cards with the stolen credit cards."

Thankfully, Brewer's cards were all in her wallet when she got it back. She said the thief took around $10-15 in cash.

She posted her experience on Facebook as a warning to other shoppers.

"I felt like I was being really safe," Brewer said. "I did have it really close to me. My body was actually touching the cart, so it really could happen to anyone."

From now on Brewer said she'll wear her purse around her body. Robbins said that's a good idea, especially heading into the holiday shopping season.

"Be aware of your surroundings," Robbins said. "You tend to get in places you're very familiar with, like the grocery store where you go every week, and you just kind of lapse into your routine. Try to break out of the routine. Keep your head up. Keep moving around you. See what's going on around you."

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