A woman leaving an Eastern Avenue pharmacy was accosted and her car was stolen Wednesday night after a man faked an accident to get her out of the vehicle, police said.
That incident followed one in Guilderland where an unknown man ducked into a car as two women were leaving a restaurant, taking a purse and fleeing on foot.
Police gave no indication that the incidents were related, but the incidents highlight the need for extra precautions at night.
In the Schenectady incident, Bernard Aunchman, 34, of Schenectady Street, is accused of using a ruse to take a 43-year-old woman’s car at the Rite Aid, 1204 Eastern Ave., just before 10 p.m.
As the woman attempted to back out, she heard yelling from the rear of her vehicle. When she got out to check if she had struck something, Aunchman allegedly got off the ground, pushed her out of the way and took her car.
Minutes later, police said, Aunchman crashed the car into a tree near 828 Kings Road in Rotterdam. Rotterdam police responded to the accident scene, checked the plates and notified Schenectady.
The driver was nowhere to be found, but Schenectady Officer Helen Reedy and her police dog, Cinta, tracked the suspect to the area of 509 Manchester Ave. and he was taken into custody. Schenectady Police Department spokesman Officer Kevin Green called the tracking an “outstanding job.”
Police said Aunchman was taken for treatment of injuries suffered in the crash. He was charged with third-degree robbery and arraigned at the hospital. He was ordered held without bail.
In the Guilderland incident two hours earlier, two women reported leaving a restaurant at the Star Plaza at routes 20 and 155. When they got into their vehicle, a man opened the driver’s side rear door, got in and grabbed the driver’s purse, Guilderland police said.
A witness reported seeing the suspect run toward the Trustco Bank and south along Route 155.
That suspect is described as a white male, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing 145 pounds. He had little or no hair, was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jacket with a white zipper, blue jeans and white sneakers.
Guilderland police asked that anyone with information on that incident to contact them.
Caution should be the rule, police said.
“If you can, before approaching your car and from a safe area, check around your car,” Green said Thursday. “If you have a remote door unlock, just unlock your door.”
“Don’t be afraid to insult somebody,” Green said. “If it’s dark and you’re alone, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ and drive away to call for help from a safe area.”
“Unfortunately, this woman last night was trying to be a good citizen and help this guy and it backfired on her,” Green said.