HOUSTON – Vicki Carr looks back to what took place earlier this month and has a chuckle, but that was not the case on Nov. 11.
On that day, Carr was followed for 17 miles from her favorite grocery store to her daughter’s home. Those keeping a close eye on her, according to law enforcement, were juggers.
The elderly woman shares exactly what those who have since been charged must have been thinking when she was targeted.
“Easy money, I can take her. She is five foot tall, weighs maybe 100 pounds, and she is our next good victim because she wears jewelry and drives a big car,” said Carr.
Carr was very lucky that several officers were already monitoring the suspects in conjunction with a sting operation. They were able to take the crew down before they could do harm.
Once again, Carr was one of the lucky ones.
However, others in our area have not been as fortunate of late.
The Houston Police Department’s own Robbery Channel on Youtube showcases several examples of juggings. The videos clearly show criminals following victims in parking lots or to their own homes and robbing them day and night.
HPD’s own numbers show juggings in 2022 have already surpassed 2021 totals. “We are seeing 20%, some months up to 40% of an increase of the number of juggings,” said Sgt. Tracy Hicks with the Houston Police Departments Auto Theft Crime Task Force.
Those numbers come at time when HPD is anticipating the usual uptick seen during the holiday season. “The workload for us and even our detectives is a lot more during the holiday season,” said Hicks.
Keep in mind jugging cases stretch far beyond Houston’s city limits and law enforcement around our area is gearing up.
“The thieves are shopping too,” said Officer Lauren Stockholm with the Sugar Land Police Department.
One tip she offered, “if you’re going to be making any big purchases, like if you are going to Apple or Best Buy, and I don’t mean to pick on them but if those are your big purchases, electronics and things like that, jewelry, not to go out to lunch afterwards and leave it in your car. Take it straight home and really pay attention to what is going on around you,” said Stockholm.
Paying attention - especially when heading to your vehicle – is the number one tip we heard from law enforcement.
“Walk with your keys in your hand, pay attention, keep your head on a swivel,” said Stockholm.
At a Monday news conference focused on safety while shopping, Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner echoed those sentiments. “To everybody, when you are leaving out of a store, get off your cell phone,” said Finner.
Through his experience with the department, Hicks made it clear that juggers are in search of one thing. “They are looking for the easy target,” said Hicks.
In many cases it involves an elderly person, but HPD says there is another target they see more often than not.
“It’s mostly females that have children with them,” said Hicks. For this reason, shopping in groups is another key tip, according to law enforcement.
As for the final piece of advice to prevent a jugging?
It has to do with the drive home.
“If you feel you’re a victim, and possibly being followed this holiday season, get on the phone call 911 and describe your situation,” said Hicks, who made one point very clear. “Don’t drive home. Stay on the phone until they tell you there is an officer behind you.”
However, how does someone tell if they are even being followed?
“So an easy way to do that is to make three or four rights to get back on your same street, or three or four lefts to get back on the same street and if they are still behind you that is when you call 911,” said Stockholm who emphasized. “Don’t go home.”
Since being targeted, Carr says she has continued to live her life the way she always has. “I refuse to live afraid. I am not afraid.”
The message she is hoping to convey to others from her jugging experience?
“I am hoping that they get the message to be cautious, to be careful, to be aware,” said Carr who emphasized she now makes it a point to request assistance from the store when exiting to her vehicle.
The last tip we heard from law enforcement involved online shopping.
A number of big purchases provide free delivery so this is a way to avoid parking lots, but make sure to be at home for the delivery or even schedule for it to go to your work if possible to avoid porch pirates.