DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona Beach Police have stepped up patrol this week, saturating Volusia Mall and Tanger Outlet Mall to watch for those seeking to commit a crime of opportunity.
“This time of year is always challenging for us because we have a lot of people, for lack of a better word, are not behaving nicely this time of the year,” Daytona Beach Police public information officer Messod Bendayan said.
News 6 spoke with some shoppers, including a couple who said they are constantly watching their surroundings.
“Because of the season, there’s more people out and that equals more bad guys out. So, I come with her just to make sure everything is cool,” Ben said.
But for some, even traveling in pairs isn't good enough. Police said a man snatched 73-year-old Elin Jonasson's purse as she and her husband were putting groceries in the car at Sam's Club, down the street from Tanger Outlet Mall.
“It was in the cart and I had my hand here and was going to take it and he grabbed it and ran,” Jonasson said.
Jonasson said it happened so quickly, he pushed her arm away to get to her expensive Louis Vuitton purse.
"My husband ran after him and there was a pick up truck that came, and he went into the pick up truck," she said.
Between witnesses calling 911, her husband remembering the truck’s license plate number and Jonasson’s iPhone that tracked the culprit’s every move, police caught the suspects a couple hours later.
“With the help of Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, we actually tracked the vehicle down to Flagler County, near (Interstate) 95 and Old Dixie (Highway) there and we ended up taking that person into custody along with another man. They’re both facing charges right now,” Bendayan said.
Robert Allen, 22, is charged with grand theft and 39-year-old Matthew Loel is charged with principal to grand theft. Police said he was the getaway driver.
Jonasson said police recovered her purse. They also found her iPhone that was thrown out the window along I-95. She also said a stranger stumbled upon several of her credit cards along the highway when he was picking up trash and returned them.
Police said there hasn't been an increase in these types of crimes lately, but they do recommend that because of the holiday season, people need to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
“Unfortunately that’s the world we live in. Not everyone’s nice. There’s a lot of Grinches out there,” Bendayan said.