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Violent Purse-Snatchers Terrorize Elderly On L.I.

WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) -- Police are searching on Long Island for two men who have gone on a violent purse-snatching spree.


WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reports

At least seven senior citizens have been terrorized in their own driveways, reports CBS 2's Sean Hennessey.

"I was a basket case," victim Kathleen Samperi said. "I thought of what he could have done – he could have stabbed me, he could have killed me."

The thug fled with Samperi's purse, but not before battering and bruising the hands, wrists and shoulders of an 81-year-old widow.

"When I opened the door, all of a sudden, someone grabbed my strap on my pocketbook," Samperi said.

Samperi was mugged on her own Wantagh driveway as she returned home from evening shopping.

"I tugged with him like a tug-of-war, and…then he finally pulled me out of the car," Samperi said. "He had the pocketbook, and ran down the side street here."

Police say the duo have pulled off robberies in Baldwin twice, Merrick, North Merrick, Levittown, East Meadow, and Wantagh.

"They're targeting what they perceive to be a vulnerable subject, somebody who's not going to give them much trouble," Det. Lt. Smith said.

Police are advising women that the suspect may be working in tandem with a getaway driver, stalking seniors in malls, following them home, and springing upon them as they pull into their driveways.

"Certainly, a pattern seems to be emerging over the past three or so weeks," Nassau County Police Detective Lt. Kevin Smith said. "Push them to the ground, and we are worried about the violence escalating as well. Some people clutch and hold on, and the more they hold on, the more harm may come to them."

"He started grabbing my bag and I held on also, and he threw me to the ground," victim Elizabeth Barbosa told CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan. "I think there was somebody else with him, because the car came and picked him up."

Barbosa was mugged and robbed steps from her Levittown home as her horrified grandchild looked on.

The week's long string of robberies is the reason Margaret O'Rourke came shopping with her son.

"I was never afraid to come by myself, get in the car and go to the store," O'Rourke said.

Those times, however, have changed.

"I'm concerned, but you know, you've still got to live, you've still got to go on," Eleanor Leone said. "You've just got to be careful."

"Thank God I'm alive," Samperi said.

Samperi is out of money, her license and credit cards, but they'll serve as reminders of a tough lesson to learn.

"Before I even make an attempt to get out of the car, I'm going to look all around where I can," Samperi said.

Police on Long Island have stepped up patrols.

Police advised women not to struggle, and to just give up the purse. They should also make sure they're returning to well-lit homes and driveways.

Nassau Police said the robbers have been traveling in a dark-colored four-door sedan. A $2,000 reward is being offered for tips that lead to their arrest.

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