OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Local businesses from Ocean Springs to Mobile have been able to catch a pair of thieves thanks to social media.
It all began when Roxanne Samies, a store owner in Ocean Springs, shared a surveillance video to Facebook showing a woman sneaking into the back office of her business A to Z Variety Store. The woman is seen on the video rummaging through a drawer.
"I shared it to a lot of the Facebook Yard Sale sites, and we bleed over into Mobile, and it was actually a few businesses over there that contacted me that it was the same women that hit them," said Samies, who owns the downtown business.
Within hours after sharing the video on her Facebook page, Samies realized the power and influence the internet has.
"That's when I started getting calls and messages from people saying 'Hey, they got us too,'" said Samies. "I went and visited a business that was hit last week and told by the owner, "I wish you would have said something earlier to at least let us know they're in our town, hitting stores.'"
Through networking with other store owners, she learned that these women had targeted shops in D'Iberville, Wiggins, and Hattiesburg. All of the thefts were caught on surveillance camera and all targeted the same type of victim.
"They're going after women," said Samies. "They'll look to see and they want our purses. They'll go in our purses, and they take out the wallet and they take the credit cards. They take the whole wallet!"
Samies said the two women appear to have a system in place. They walk into a store and split up, with one acting like she's interested in a particular item or needs attention while the other sneaks around and pockets purses and wallets.
Samies spoke to Mayor Shea Dobson and Connie Moran, the city's former mayor, about the issue after filing a report with the police. Authorities say they are investigating the case.
Another store in Long Beach was also targeted by the same two women, according to a post by JoAn Nicely who owns the Hope Chest in Long Beach. Samies shared Nicely's post on her own Facebook page, along with multiple other posts from businesses looking for the suspected thieves.
Going forward, Samies and the other store owners say they keep their personal belongings close-by or locked up. They've also started a check-in system with each other if they spot suspicious activity.
If anyone has any information about the two women in the photos, they are asked to contact Ocean Springs Police Department at 228-875-2211 or Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at 877-787-5898.