A group of individuals has been targeting vehicles in Saratoga County for theft and fraud opportunities, the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials have been investigating a string of thefts from vehicles that have been taking place in the Spa County and surrounding communities, officials said.
A group of individuals often referred to as the Felony Lane Gang has been targeting unoccupied vehicles and stealing wallets and purses from those vehicles, officials said in a press release.
"The Federal Bureau of Investigation describes them as a group of organized burglary and identity theft rings operating in multiple jurisdictions throughout the United States," the release read.
The suspects often steal the items from unlocked vehicles but will also break car windows to gain entry, officials said. The areas where the group frequents include daycare centers, gyms and parks, including ball fields.
Specifically, the thefts have occurred in the towns of Clifton Park, Halfmoon and Malta, said Captain Jeff Brown of the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday. He declined to name specific businesses where the vehicles were parked at the time of the thefts, citing concerns for the privacy of the victims.
"It appears that they're conducting surveillance at these locations," Brown said, noting that the suspects often target the vehicles of women who they see walking into a building without a purse or bag. "If they see them walking in without a purse in hand, they figure it's in the car. They usually get a purse if they break the window."
The department has seen approximately 30 incidents of theft that are linked to the group in the past month alone, Brown said.
While the suspects will grab cash and other valuables they see, Brown said, the priority is to steal a person's license, other identification and bank cards. Once they get the cards, he said, they then travel to local banks, sometimes wearing disguises, to pose as the victims and steal cash. The thefts tend to happen during the day, according to deputies.
"These people are committing fraud," Brown said. "Typically it's the IDs that they're after, and then checks. They're doing it usually pretty quickly, before the stuff gets reported stolen."
To safeguard against break-ins, people should not leave their valuables, including wallets, purses or other items, in plain sight if they leave their vehicles, or in their vehicles at all.
The area has seen its share of sporadic vehicle break-ins, Brown said, but he called these much more "sophisticated." Usually the incidents occur in spurts, and this is the first time police have seen them occur over such a long period of time. He added that many different groups with the same motive are generally committing the types of crimes all over the country, even if the suspects are not working together.
Police continue to actively pursue leads, Brown said. Area law enforcement agencies, including the Colonie Police Department, the Saratoga Springs Police Department, and the New York State Police, are working together on the investigation, Brown said.
Theoretically, he added, providing the public with information about the thefts will lead to an increased vigilance and will make it more and more difficult for the suspects to steal.
"They'll run out of luck here and then move on," he said.