Police Release Video of Suspected Purse Stealer

If she had simply had her hand in the pickle jar at one place — or if she had stuck a finger in the maple-butter dish at the other — this would be a different story, and probably more delectable.

But the police say the woman reached for something else at Katz’s Delicatessen and the Clinton Street Baking Company, both on the Lower East Side: customers’ pocketbooks.

Four times in the last five months, the police say, she grabbed a purse that had been slung over the back of a chair while the chair was occupied by a customer — three times at Katz’s, which is large and usually crowded, the other time at the Clinton Street Baking Company, which is small and also usually crowded.

The police, seeking tips from the public, released a video it said was recorded by a camera at Katz’s on Sept. 30, catching the suspect in the act at 3:30 p.m. The police described her as a black woman who was between ages 40 and 50. She stole pocketbooks at Katz’s, on Houston and Ludlow Streets, also on May 1 and May 28, the police said, and on June 17 at the Clinton Street Baking Company, at 4 Clinton Street.

DeDe Lahman, an owner of the Clinton Street Baking Company, said there had been another incident not mentioned in an alert from the police. “Both times, she came in, cased the place, went to the bathroom and when she came out, grabbed a purse,” Ms. Lahman said. “She’s smart.”

Ms. Lahman said the woman each time reached for the purse on the back of the same chair — at a table by the door.

Alan Dell, an owner of Katz’s, said the deli had given the police tapes from its cameras. But he was unaware that the police were looking for help from the public until a reporter called.

He said he was off on the days the first two incidents took place. As for the most recent one, on Sept. 30, he said: “All I remember is someone lost a purse. We called the police. We gave them a tape.”

He said Katz’s had two guards on duty on weekends and one on weekdays, as well as an employee who issues the tickets used in ordering — “another pair of eyes that could help” if the woman were to return.

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