Kingsport police search for serial purse snatcher

Rain Smith • Jan 3, 2013 at 2:11 AM

Kingsport police are seeking a woman charged in at least four separate purse and wallet snatching incidents over the month of December, naming her as the suspect in several additional such cases that are still under investigation.

Crystal Rhea Crawford, 30, last known address of 339 Twin Hills Drive, also faces multiple charges of forgery, ID theft and fraudulent use of credit cards. According to affidavits filed in Kingsport court, Crawford would treat herself to shopping sprees with credit cards tucked away in the stolen purses and wallets.

Records indicate Kingsport police received four such complaints on Dec. 11. A shopper at Food City on North Eastman Road had her purse snatched from a buggy, with her credit and debit cards subsequently used at three Kingsport retailers.

KPD Det. Randy Murray says Crawford is believed to have then attempted to use one of the victim's stolen cards at the Walmart on West Stone Drive, but the transaction was denied. Shortly after the denial Crawford is alleged to have grabbed a wallet from a purse inside another shoppers cart.

The shopper felt their buggy move, according to an affidavit, and turned to observe Crawford walking away. The female victim and several Walmart employees successfully detained Crawford, recovering the stolen wallet and the previous victim's stolen cards.

Crawford was arrested in the incident and booked into the city jail. Police report she bonded out and was at it again the very next day, stealing a shopper's purse at another retail store.

Since then Crawford has been identified as a suspect in several other December thefts and fraud cases. In one such incident a purse was stolen from the back of a chair in the Indian Path Medical Center cafeteria, while a card inside was then used to buy jewelry and electronics from Kmart. Investigators say additional charges are pending in the ongoing investigations, while there's also an active warrant on Crawford for violation of parole.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact Kingsport central dispatch at (423) 246-9111 or the KPD Criminal Investigations Division at (423) 229-9429.

KPD Det. Murray urged people to be cognizant of their surroundings while shopping and never leaving purses unattended or unsecured — even if it's placed in a shopping cart by your side.

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