HAYWARD, Calif. - Hayward police have a warning for women: they say thieves are targeting them in a series of smash and grab robberies since the end of last year.
The robberies take place in broad daylight in busy areas while the victims are in their cars.
Police investigators say the robberies often take place in the parking lots of shopping malls and banks as women return to their vehicles. They say the thieves are targeting women who are alone.
"These folks are watching for victims to get back into their vehicles. As they're sitting in their cars. the suspects come up to the car, smash the window and take the property from inside," says Officer Cassondra Fovel with Hayward Police Department.
Police say the thieves break the front passenger side window while the victim is in the driver seat.
Investigators say there have been 28 smash and grab robberies since the end of December up to as recently as Monday, with thieves stealing purses, cash and other items on the front passenger seat.
"It's very alarming that they have no remorse. You're sitting in the car and they'll still break in and take your stuff," says Joey Trinh of Hayward.
Many women say they do leave their purses and other personal belongings on the front passenger seat.
"I was pretty shocked, surprised about that. I go shopping a lot within the neighborhood by myself," says Melanie Grigsby.
Police say the same people may be responsible for all the smash and grab robberies in Hayward and that this type of crime is taking place in other cities in Alameda County.
Investigators say the victims have not been able to provide good descriptions of the thieves because they're wearing masks and the robberies happen quickly.
Officer Fovel advised potential victims to try to not sit in their car for an extended period after they've conducted their business. "Try not to leave belongings in an area that's easily accessible," she said.
Police are urging women not to go shopping or banking alone.
"Now we're in a pandemic, can't really see your family or friends as often. I don't know, maybe just shop online," says Trinh.
"[I'm] definitely going to be more aware of my surroundings, definitely make sure I'm gong to try to park more closer to the entrance of the store," says Grigsby
Police say the robberies have taken place during normal business hours and that they involve one or two suspects.
They say they're stepping up patrols and using other strategies to try to stop these crimes.