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Pilfered At The Pump: Cops Say Thieves Are Targeting Motorists With New 'Sliding' Robberies

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Thieves have been targeting drivers while they are pumping gas, in a new crime of opportunity that takes only seconds.

In crimes caught by surveillance cameras, the thieves can be seen pulling up while an unsuspecting motorist is at the pump. The passenger jumps out of the car, reaches into the victim's vehicle, grabs a purse, and flees. The entire thing happens in seconds.

As CBS 2's Maurice DuBois reported, the crime known as 'sliding' is on the rise.

"This is a very easy crime," explained retired NYPD detective Joe Giacalone of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "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."

Another surveillance video showed a thief jumping through a car window to grab a purse that was left on the passenger seat.

"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.

As Giacalone explained, brief cases, laptops, and smartphones are also popular targets.

During a trip to a Long Island gas station with CBS 2's cameras, Giacalone pointed out a stream of drivers who were all vulnerable to sliders.

"I do kind of leave my door open," one driver said, "Sometimes I leave my phone on my seat."

One motorist went so far as to leave her purse on the front seat with the windows open when she went to get a cup of coffee.

"Based on the neighborhood, I considered it safe," she admitted.

Authorities said she got lucky. "Safe" neighborhoods are the exact locales that thieves tend to target.

"Because they think that people have money and they have credit cards, and that's why they're going to them," Giacalone said.

The NYPD recently issued a warning regarding sliding, and suggested that drivers fill up during the day, keep doors locked with windows rolled up, and always remove their keys from the ignition while at the pump.

"Don't make it easy on somebody. Make sure that you don't become a victim," Giacalone reiterated.

Experts said that sport-utility vehicle drivers are particularly vulnerable because their seats are so high.

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