Authorities report an uptick in ‘jugging’ thefts

Law enforcement officials are sounding the alarm over a recent spike of what authorities call “jugging” thefts, in which thieves patiently follow victims from an ATM, bank or store to their homes or other locations before committing often violent robberies.

Police report bank customers in affluent urban areas of Texas, California and Florida have been victims of the crime trend recently.

A Houston man was arrested Friday after he was accused of following a Bank of America customer who had just withdrawn a large cash amount. Police said security video captured the images of Terrence Thompson, 59, stalking the customer.

Other Texas cities are getting hit too. According to a recent report from ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the city of Austin has had 84 jugging cases this year.

On Sept. 14, the Austin Police Department announced the arrest of a man who allegedly stalked a customer at a Bank of America branch in North Austin. Jamarcus Drumgole, 31, is charged with assaulting and robbing the customer at his apartment after following him.

In California, Stockton’s ABC-10 news outlet reported Wednesday on the robbery of a woman in her driveway after she withdrew a large sum from North Stockton Wells Fargo Bank. The thief, who followed her home on the five-minute drive during the lunch hour, took her purse with her money, credit cards, ATM card and cellphone — and charged $4,000 to her name within the hour.

“All of a sudden, I heard tapping on my window, and it was just so quick and the window was being broke out and I started screaming,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told ABC-10.

The Stockton Police Department said it has received at least four “jugging” complaints this year.

On Sept. 8, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office announced that two Florida residents arrested for bank jugging in Alabama were also being charged in a four-county smash-and-grab crime spree.

Police said Isaiah Demarcus Satterfield and Bakaria Rayveon Fisher followed victims from local banks to their next stops, smashing their car windows and stealing their money after they parked.

According to the FBI, jugging has surged during the pandemic.

According to authorities, the best way for people to prevent jugging is to avoid waving money and purchases around in their hands as they walk out of stores or banks — and to pay attention to who might be watching.

Jugging, a term that goes back decades to a time when some businesses brought cash to banks in jugs, also takes the form of “follow-home retail thefts,” where thieves tail shoppers to their cars or homes after they leave stores.

In follow-home retail thefts, thieves look for products to repackage and resell at lower prices — including baby formula, over-the-counter medications and teeth-whitener strips. The items have often expired by the time they hit the black market.

Some areas have taken steps to crack down on the crimes.

Last December, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced more than $30 million in public safety funding for police and prosecutors to fight a statewide rise in violent property and retail crimes. The Democratic governor’s initiative followed a rash of smash-and-grab retail thefts and jugging attacks in the Los Angeles area.

“Through robust new investments and ongoing coordination with local agencies, this plan will bolster our prevention, deterrence and enforcement efforts to aggressively curb crime, hold bad actors to account and protect Californians from the devastating gun violence epidemic,” Mr. Newsom said at a news conference.

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