VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 3) - In the evidence locker at the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Cameron Tucker pulled wig after wig out of a deep evidence, each one a different hairstyle, and he believes each is part of a crime that only keeps getting more complex.
Next to the wigs were several designer purses and handbags as well as dozens of folders full of checkbooks, driver’s licenses, and debit cards reported stolen from local cars. Tucker estimated about 250 pieces of evidence were in the pile that all tie to one single case of a crime that’s fast becoming infamous among law enforcement nationwide: The Felony Lane Gang.
Don’t be fooled by the name. Tucker’s fellow detective Michael Cox said it’s not really a centrally organized game with members, but rather it’s a common crime committed by groups of people across the country; a complicated one at that.
“They’re very well organized,” said Detective Cox.
You can find incidents of the Felony Lane Gang showing up in cities large and small throughout the US. It appears to have started on the East Coast and slowly spread; the crime evolving along the way. Cox said these days he’s found many instances of the crime seem to trace back to Florida in one way or another.
However, these days Cox and Tucker spend the bulk of their time trying to crack on local Felony Lane Gang crimes; which they said seem to be showing up more and more.
It starts with the target: almost always women. Cox said the suspects tend to seek out locations where women may ‘run in’ and leave their purse behind in the car. Spots like daycares, gyms, and parks seem to be common in the cases.
“They may have a GPS and they may just type in ‘parks’,” said Cox.
In a recent incident fitting the Felony Lane profile in Lake County, the suspects even targeted women grieving at local graveyards.
Cox said the suspects will case the parking lots as long as it takes to find a target and an opening to strike unnoticed. When they do, he said the suspects wait for the person to walk away from their vehicle and then they approach the car, break a window, and steal the purse from inside; getting away before anyone can notice in most cases.
From their Cox said the purse is usually handed off to another person in another vehicle, this time a woman.
The Detectives said the thieves are looking for 2 things in those purses: checkbooks and ID’s. The suspects take the checkbook from one break-in and the ID from another, so cops have at least 2 victims in every incident.
Cox said the woman will now use a pile of wigs and costumes to look like the person in the stolen ID and write a check to that person’s name with the stolen checkbook.
The female suspect then goes to a local bank drive-through and cashes the check from the far lane where the tellers and cameras are less likely to notice the person is disguised; a lane that cops refer to as ‘the felony lane’.
The group takes off before anyone notices and is on to their next target.
Volusia County has dealt with a pile of the cases happening at DeBary’s Gemini Springs Park and actually made one arrest on a woman Cox believe is connected to several of those cases. He said they located her with all of those wigs as well as the checks and cards, many of which were hidden in the workings of a hotel toilet when Cox’s team made the bust.
Still though, Cox said the Felony Lane situation is frustrating. He said the cases are often tough to prosecute due to the complexity and the lengths the suspects go to to cover their tracks. Also he said it’s a seemingly never ending street: they arrest one person but there are countless others out their tied to the crimes.
Cox said the biggest tool in the fight against the Felony Lane Gang is public awareness. They need others looking for suspicious activity in these public places, because he said the cops can’t possibly be everywhere these guys would hit.
“This is their job [the suspects],” said Cox. “They’ll sit there and wait, they’ll wait out a deputy if they see the car there, that’s not going to scare them off.”
He said in these cases hiding items of value in your car or locking the doors also won’t help. He urges drivers, especially women to take valuables and purses with them and don’t leave them in cars; no matter how quick the trip.