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LI couple, fueled by opioid addiction, arrested in string of purse snatchings at grocery stores

WINS Radio New York logo WINS Radio New York 7/30/2021 Sophia Hall
a man and a woman looking at the camera: Tariasha Smith and Robert Hengeveld © Provided by WCBS Radio New York Tariasha Smith and Robert Hengeveld

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — A Long Island couple has been charged in connection with a series of handbag thefts at grocery stores in Suffolk County.

According to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron, Tariasha Smith and Robert Hengeveld committed the thefts at five supermarkets throughout the county.

“Their modus operandi is a one of them would drive the car, the other one would lean out the window and they would snatch women's pocketbooks out of shopping carts while they were out in the parking lot of a supermarket,” the commissioner said.

He adds that the two were motivated by an opioid addiction.

Police caught up with the suspects during a traffic stop, in which they fled the scene after showing cops their ID cards. Cameron said while fleeing, their vehicle struck a tree and officers found several stolen handbags inside the vehicle.

The police commissioner is now advising shoppers to be cautious, as he says many women often leave their handbags in the child safety seat of the cart, making them vulnerable for theft.

“We do see larcenies of women's pocketbooks when they're left unattended and that's an important point,” Cameron said.

Instead, he recommends everyone carry their handbags on their person and do not allow themselves to become distracted and leave the bag unattended.

“Women should be very cognizant of their pocketbooks, that people may be looking to steal them,” said the commissioner.

Cameron says to always place the handbag in a secure part of the vehicle when loading groceries into the car.

Both Smith and Hengeveld are facing numerous charges.

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