WOOSTER, Ohio - Investigators in Wayne and Holmes Counties are warning graduation party hosts and guests to be on the lookout after a series of vehicle smash-and-grabs over the weekend.
At least five people had valuables stolen from their cars while they attended graduation parties on Saturday afternoon. The crimes happened in Creston, Big Prairie and Millersburg.
In addition, three women had their purses stolen on the same day while celebrating at an alumni reunion at Holmesville Elementary School.
"It appears that the suspects in these cases are driving around, looking for a large gathering of vehicles and then pulling up and hoping to more or less fit in with the crowd," said Captain Douglas Hunter from the Wayne County Sheriff's Department.
The crooks smashed out windows-- usually on the driver's side-- and took purses, credit cards, cash and other valuables.
A suspicious vehicle was reported outside of two of the parties. It's described as on old model, blue van, possibly an Astro van, with tan on the lower quarter.
A picture of a similar van, along with a warning about the crimes, has been posted on the Wayne County Sheriff's Facebook page.
Maryfaith Persic was at a friend's house in Creston for a graduation party for less than an hour on Saturday afternoon. She locked her minivan, but when she returned, a window had been smashed out and her purse was gone.
"When we were walking up closer, I asked my son, 'Did I leave the window down in the van?' He's like, 'No, the van's window is busted out,'" Persic said.
Persic lost cash, her passport, her driver's license and credit card information. She was most disturbed that the crooks accessed her son's PIN code on his bank card and drained about $500 from his account. It was money he had saved for a foreign exchange trip.
She noticed the money vanishing when she checked her mobile banking app.
"Money was coming out of ATM's that they were using that I don't use."
Anyone with information on the crimes is urged to call the Wayne County Sheriff's Department at 330-287-5750 or the Holmes County Sheriff's Department at 330-674-1936.