All Sections

Home | Crime

'Felony Lane' smash-and-grab crooks casing region's parking lots; here's what to look out for

Union Leader Correspondent

January 19. 2018 3:10PM

The woman was captured last month on video in Rhode Island withdrawing money using cards stolen from Bow. (Courtesy)

LONDONDERRY — Recent thefts from vehicles in the Merrimack Valley may be crimes of opportunity loosely related to the Felony Lane Gang, police say.

More than a dozen vehicles were targeted the night of Jan. 9 in Londonderry and Windham. Police are on the lookout for people in rented vehicles casing vehicles in parking lots.

“They will be back,” warned Windham police Capt. Michael Caron. “People need to be aware, this isn’t a new phenomenon. We’ve been dealing with the Felony Lane Gang for years.”

Felony Lane Gang members and associates are active on the East Coast from Florida to New England, predominantly breaking into vehicles to steal valuables left in plain sight. Most incidents occur in large, empty parking lots — daycare centers, all-night gyms and shopping plazas.

Thieves hit many vehicles in a short span, then flee the state to use the stolen checks and credit cards they find, according to the Felony Lane Gang Task Force, the leading agency tracking its activities.

“They basically go on a cross-country trip, and they start in Florida and go all the way up to y’all,” said Det. Aaron Randall with the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office. “Basically, it’s a group out of Miami … it’s multiple different groups.”

The criminal teams specialize, some focus on liquor stores, others fraudulent gift cards. New Hampshire mostly experiences “smash-and-grab” thefts.

“They’re sitting in the parking lot waiting,” Randall said. “They sit and watch, that’s the kind of M.O. that they have.”

While the thieves sit and wait for their next victim, Granite State law enforcement officials have been doing some stalking of their own. Felony Lane arrests have been reported in Concord, Greenland, Hooksett and Nottingham. In the last six months, police in Bow, Northwood and Salem have all reported incidents connected to the criminal organization.

Salem has been one of the hardest hit communities over the past few years. Last February, five Floridians were arrested at the Red Roof Inn with a trove of stolen financial information.

“I wouldn’t say that we’ve had an uptick lately, but it’s definitely something we do keep an eye on,” said Salem police Capt. Joel Dolan.

Salem police recently posted a message to social media regarding the threat.

“Their target is checkbooks, debit cards, and cash. If there is a checkbook along with an ID, their next stop will be at your bank where they will make an uninvited withdrawal from your account utilizing the outside drive-through lane of the bank, commonly referred to as the ‘Felony Lane.’ Hence, their adorable name.”

Det. Christopher Olson of Londonderry police said his town has had two incidents involving a total of six vehicles at a pair of workout clubs.

The thieves don’t appear to have a favorite time of day to strike, they steal “any time they see an opportunity,” he said.

“Londonderry police are stepping up our patrols in late parking lot areas such as movie theaters, workout areas or gym parking lots and shopping malls,” he said.

Locked vehicles are not always a deterrent. The suspects will smash windows if valuables are visible within. Windham police had five victims in one night at a gymnastics facility, said Caron.

“They will break a window if (valuables) are thrown on the backseat of a locked car, they will go after it,” he said. “One of our victims had a check cashed in New York, so obviously the people who took this victim’s items made it all the way to New York to try and cash the check.”

Police echo the same common sense advice to protect yourself from these thieves — keep purses, wallets and other valuables out of view if left in a vehicle and be suspicious of people loitering in vehicles with out-of-state plates in parking lots.

“Don’t give them the opportunity to take anything,” said Dolan.

Crime Public Safety

More Headlines