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Broken car window

A car window that was broken at Hovey Pond Park in Queensbury recently, so thieves could steal a purse that was inside.

GLENS FALLS — The group that has been blamed for hundreds of purse thefts from parked cars around the region in recent years struck again locally Thursday, stealing from several patrons at the Glens Falls Family YMCA after smashing vehicle windows.

The incidents happened around 2:30 p.m., and at least four purses that had been left on car seats were taken.

A patron of the YMCA witnessed one of the thefts and called police, which prompted a manhunt that led to State Police spotting the suspects’ vehicle on the Northway. A chase ensued, during which the white sport-utility vehicle in which the suspects fled topped 100 mph and the troopers broke off the pursuit because of safety concerns.

The vehicle was found later Thursday abandoned in Troy, and police were working to determine who owned it and who had been in it.

The thieves later tried to use credit cards belonging to the victims, succeeding with at least one transaction, as a jail inmate used a card number to make a phone call from jail.

Glens Falls Police Detective Sgt. Kyle Diamond said investigators from multiple agencies were working on the case Friday. They believe it is tied to continued actions of a group known as the “Felony Lane Gang,” which has been linked to thousands of similar theft cases around the country.

“This is going to go beyond Glens Falls,” he said.

He said five cars had windows broken, and purses were stolen from at least four. One vehicle had nothing stolen from it, and Diamond said it was unclear why the thieves entered that one.

One of the victims, who spoke on condition her name not be used, said she had just become a member of the YMCA and was not made aware of the spate of thefts. She said it was a “horrible experience” to know that the thieves have her personal information.

“My sense of safety is out the window. I feel so violated,” she said.

She said she immediately canceled credit cards after the theft, but the thieves tried to use one and managed to use another before the cancellations took effect.

She said she believes the YMCA needed to add security to deal with the continued issues.

The YMCA was first victimized by the group in November 2016. Since then, the organization has addressed the thefts by adding surveillance cameras, posting notices in the building and emailing members, as police have increased patrols on and around the property.

The thieves have also targeted women who left purses in vehicles at private gyms as well as parks and trailheads, thefts The Post-Star has reported on numerous times.

YMCA Executive Director Brian Bearor said the facility’s management team has added more surveillance cameras that are high-definition to help police as the thefts have occurred, and will look at ways to offer more education for members about the risks.

“We’re going to look at it again, see if there are other ways we can fill holes,” he said. “It’s not going away, that’s the sad part.”

Diamond said residents need to be aware that the group has been active locally and take steps to prevent being victimized.

“The thing we want people to know is they have to be vigilant about leaving valuables in their vehicle,” Diamond said.

Anyone who witnessed Thursday’s incidents or had information in the case was asked to call 518-761-3840.

The group was dubbed the “Felony Lane Gang” because thieves often go to banks with fake or forged checks that originate with their victims and use the farthest outside lane of the drive-thru to avoid scrutiny. That lane has been dubbed the “felony” lane.

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Don Lehman covers police and court matters and Warren County government. He can be reached at 518-742-3224 or dlehman@poststar.com

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime, Warren County government and the outdoors for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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