Detective Tim Sims works with the metro patrol's property crimes unit and he has a wall filled with one mug shot after another of Phillips who has been arrested time and time again for theft cases.
As they're busy nursing patients back to health, Phillips has been caught on tape allegedly taking their purses with their money and credit cards inside.
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Police say they've arrested a purse-snatching female bandit who has targeted hospitals, schools and churches.
According to police, they arrested 39-year-old Lalia Phillips Wednesday morning at the Crown Lodge, located on Missouri Highway 350. They said she is already facing several charges and they were happy to catch her before she struck again.
"She just walks the floors in hospitals and starts trying doors to see if they're unlocked or open and she will go in for a quick minute and come out with a purse," said Detective Tim Sims with the Kansas City, MO, Police Department.
Police say Phillips is taking advantage of hard-working nurses and staff at hospitals like Research Medical Center. As they're busy nursing patients back to health, Phillips walks in pretending to be looking for someone and has been caught on tape allegedly taking their purses with their money and credit cards inside.
"I watched a lot of her video and she just walks in like she owns the place and she'll walk right back out within minutes," Sims said.
Sims works with the metro patrol's property crimes unit and he has a wall filled with one mug shot after another of Phillips, who has been arrested time and time again for theft cases. Each time she has a new look to try to avoid being recognized by security, according to police.
"Her disguises are different. She goes in with different wigs, sometimes it's a black hair, sometimes red hair or sometimes blonde hair," he said.
Employees at Ahzi's Beauty Depot said Phillips tried three times to buy wigs from their store, located just down the street from the hospital she allegedly walked into and stole from its employees.
"In this business we are trained at Ahzi's Beauty Depot to see through certain people. We give everybody a chance, but once you start crossing that chance, we can't do nothing but go by the book," employee Marie Hall said.
Hall said she recognizes Phillips from her visits to their store.
"(She wanted the wigs) to change her identity, make her look cleaner, nicer, friendly, more approachable to people," Hall said.
Hall said Phillips came in with a credit card, but no identification, to buy three wigs and workers knew something wasn't right.
"We didn't let her," Hall said. "When she did, you know, we told her you have to have a picture ID or we can't do it, so she just left and we haven't seen her since."
It's not just staff at hospitals that have allegedly fallen prey to the purse snatcher. Teachers at several schools and even church members have found their purses gone in an instant. Police say before the victims even realize what has happened, Phillips has bought hundreds of gift cards with their credit cards.
"You feel so violated, so violated," said one school teacher who did not want to give her identity. "She'd actually been in our building two weeks prior and stole a bag, but she had changed her identity, she wears different wigs."
The victim said her sense of security was stolen along with her purse and everything inside it.
"I went to my office and opened my drawer and my purse was gone," she said. "I had to pick my daughter up from school and I didn't have my keys and panic set in."
The victim got a call from her credit card company saying within 45 minutes of her card being stolen, $2,700 in Visa gift cards and gas were purchased by the person who had her purse.
"They found my purse in a drug house, it was filthy and dirty and nothing was in it," she said.
To help thwart any future purses thefts, Sims has some advice for women.
"I would tell people to put their purses up, lock them up, lock their office doors even if they're gone for a few minutes. They have to lock their doors," he said.
The victim says where she works is following that advice.
"Now every time someone gets up to leave their office to use the restroom, they lock their office," she said.
The victim says people have to be buzzed inside the place she works. She said Phillips lied two separate times to get inside, saying she had an appointment.
Police say so far Phillips has swiped as many as two dozen purses.
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