We all want to protect ourselves from crooks. Well, imagine being able to talk to one.
Betty Sexton sat down with a thief who's about to pay for her crimes and the information she has to share is not only frightening, but enlightening.
Her movements are fast, smooth, and deliberate. In just about ten seconds this self-confessed crook demonstrates how quickly she can get inside your car and snatch your purse or wallet.... wearing gloves ... using a five-dollar tool.
We'll call our thief Marsha, as she wishes to be anonymous. She knows every one in Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, and Denver. It was her go-to-spot because she knew a lot of hikers would park... leaving valuables in their cars.
Marsha says she knew exactly how much time she and her partner had because they had walked and timed the trails themselves. She says she never worked alone because a lookout's a must. Waiting and watching, they'd zero in on a target and within minutes... be on their way to racking up thousands of dollars in credit card charges.
Marsha says, "It's indescribable. You're so excited and scared at the same time."
Marsha says what surprised her the most... no matter the make or model of a vehicle... most of the time car alarms never sounded.
"In a lot of car models you can break the window, you can hit it with a baseball bat... you can do a lot of things to it, but until you pull up the handle... the car alarm doesn't go off so people get a false sense of security. They're like oh, my car's locked, I've got a car alarm ... and we got into so many cars without ever opening a door."
Marsha says their first stop was always the gas station to test the credit card by paying at the pump. If the charge went through they'd be on their way.
Marsha says the ATM was never a problem. She found most PINs were numbers found in your wallet like your address or part of your Social Security number.
"It was so easy and usually by the time people got back to their cars, the damage was done."
After the gas station and the ATM, Marsha and her partner would head to one of the big box stores.
The reason? They were usually busy, they allow you to swipe your own card at the register, and check out's available in the electronics departments. It's far away from the sea of surveillance cameras in the main checkout area.
Marsha says, "They completely ignore if they have check outs in the back or other places in the store."
Marsha tells us she categorized cards according to their buying power... a regular credit card meant purchases limited to $500... netting her an X-Box or PlayStation system and maybe a few games.
A gold or platinum card was worth a few thousand. It could buy a flat-screen TV... which they'd turn around a sell to a friend or acquaintance.
Marsha admits, "We'd go in and we'd get a big screen TV and a gaming system and then we'd go to another place and buy gift cards, and then we'd go to another place... and we just made a big circle."
Marsha tells me the last time she committed a crime was last summer, but her past eventually caught up with her.
We checked her record. She's now facing more than 20 charges and will soon appear in front of a judge. She says she wanted to come clean to apologize and to help others.
She's finishing up a college degree, is working, and hoping for a light sentence.
Marsha admits, "I made some bad choices. I got distracted by wanting things that I've never been able to afford in my life and that's all it was. I don't think of myself as a criminal." Marsha makes no excuses for her behavior. She says she used to do meth, but has been drug-free two years.
She wants you to remember these things:
-Don't keep valuables in your car, period.
-Don't count on your vehicle alarm to sound if your window's busted.. Check with your mechanic or dealer to see what will set it off.
-Don't put valuables in your trunk. Most trunk latches are right by the window within reach.
And here's an important one... leave your car window slightly open. Marsha says it makes a difference; "If your window's all the way shut it would break in a heartbeat, but if it's open, even a crack... you have to try a few times to get it to break."
Also... don't carry a bunch of credit cards and don't use your address or Social Security number as your pin.
For stores, she suggests more monitoring in the electronics departments and having clerks always check ID when buying gift cards no matter what the amount.
Colorado Springs police say ever year more than 1,200 of us have items stolen from our vehicles.