TODAY   |  August 07, 2013

Rossen Reports: ‘Sliders’ target women at gas stations

Surveillance cameras are revealing what police call “sliders”: criminals targeting women who leave their purses in the car while they pump gas. The crooks sneak through the passenger side of the cars and snatch their purses. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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>> this morning on rossen reports, a new crime targeting women at gas stations . thieves striking as you're standing only feet away at the pump. today national investigative correspondence jeff rossen is in midtown manhattan with more on this. good morning.

>> good morning to you. here at the gas station most women leave their pocketbooks on the front seat of the car. my wife does it. that's her bag right there. you think what could happen. my stuff is safe. i'm standing either here. i'm standing feet away from my car. but that's exactly when these crooks strike on the opposite side of the car. while you're pumping gas and distracted. all of it caught on tape.

>> reporter: you're watching a brazen crime in action. see this woman pumping gas off to the side. now, watch this silver car pull up next to her just like any other customer. as the woman is focussing on the gas pump , watch, the thief crouches down, opens her passenger door and grabs her purse. the entire crime takes only 19 seconds. police call these crooks sliders.

>> they say it's sliding because they're sliding below the eye level of the door.

>> reporter: and it's happening nationwide. from houston to miami to washington d.c. in this case, watch as the thief checks the door, it's locked so he jumps through the window to snatch the purse. the victim pumping gas just feet away.

>> this is such an easy crime for them to commit because they're in and out so quickly.

>> reporter: it happened to susan while filling up her tank. surveillance cameras caught this car pulling up next to her truck. watch as the thief creeps out, opens her door, and makes off with her purse.

>> i me ever even thought to lock my doors because i'm standing right there next to my darr.

>> reporter: but it wasn't over yet. just minutes later while susan was waiting for police to arrive, another crook hit the same station. watch this white sedan pull up to another woman's suv. the thief sneaks out and tries to grab her purse from inside. susan saw it and sprang into action.

>> i ran out and i started yelling he's robbing you, he's robbing you. i didn't want it to happen to her. it just happened to me. it's an awful feeling. he got away empty handed. while cops nab some of the thieves, many are never caught. leaving women vulnerable, easy targets at the pump.

>> where do you keep your pocketbook?

>> the front seat passenger seat .

>> so it's right over -- here it s. it would be easy for a criminal to come from the other side and grab this.

>> especially considering i always leave the windows down.

>> even worse.

>> yes.

>> reporter: so how do you protect yourself? ideally police say you take your pocketbook out of the car and bring it with you to the pump while you pump gas but at the very least matt lock your doors and roll up your windows so when the crook tries to check your car from the other side he can't get in.

>> roll up your window on the driver side or roll down your window so you don't lock yourself out of the car.

>> good point. yeah.

>> just thinking here.

>> lauer reports.

>> jeff, you'll get an update on that one tomorrow. appreciate