Authorities in several cities have warned residents about a type of crime, dubbed "sliding," which entails a thief slipping into a victim's car as they pump gas at a gas station.
Police in Kentucky were issuing notices to the public about the practice, stating that thieves need only a few seconds to pull off the crime and slip away, according to WKYT.
Maj. Rob Jones of the Corbin Police Department said his department worked three or four cases in the span of a few months.
"People need to realize that this is happening," he said. "We think more are happening because women are saying, 'I just went to Walmart and my purse is missing.' We think that's what's happening."
"This is a very easy crime,” cautioned retired NYPD detective Joe Giacalone, speaking with WCBS. "Sliding is an operation where a bad guy pulls up alongside of your vehicle, while you’re parked at the gas station. He either reaches through an open window or actually opens your door, and will remove items right from the seat.”
Jones encouraged citizens to lock their cars while pumping gas, regardless of how long they step away.
"They can be in the car, back in their car, and on the interstate from our major gas areas in less than three to five minutes," he warned, reports WKYT. "So they're already gone."
An incident captured by security cameras at a Houston gas station showed how quickly this type of theft can happen. A woman pulled up at a pump while the thief rolled up to the spot across from her car. As soon as she turned her back to the vehicle, the man took her belongings.
"They're not looking for a confrontation," Officer Jim Woods of the Houston Police Department told ABC News. "They just want the property, because they know it's being left abandoned and you're not paying enough attention."
The victim expressed her surprise at how easy it was for the thief to take her purse.
"It's yours, protect it," Woods said. "And the easiest way to protect it is keep it locked up, keep it with you, and don't leave it in the vehicle unoccupied."
Giacalone spoke with drivers at gas stations and a few admitted they do not take proper precautions, according to WCBS. One man said he often leaves his phone sitting on his seat when he's not in the vehicle.
"Generally, women are the victims because of the pocketbook, because it’s an easy target. It has a strap, you can just reach in and grab it,” Giacalone said.
"Don’t make it easy on somebody. Make sure that you don’t become a victim."