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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The victim of an alleged serial pick pocket who targets the elderly is relieved after police were able to make an arrest.
“I was happy when I realized it because I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Especially old folks like us,” said 94-year-old victim John Burt, who served in the Air Force during World War II.
Burt tells CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that he’s grateful to see police get their man. Video showed the suspected thief using a coat over his arm to disguise his crimes — picking the pocket of distracted elderly shoppers at supermarkets.
Derrick Hope, 56, was charged with robbing Burt and four other victims in Surfside and Coral Gables. Police said Burt’s credit card was used to charge more than $6,000 worth of items at a department store.
“It took a lot out of me. What this guy did to me, he was able to get my wallet out of my pocket. I didn’t know how it happened, it happened so quick,” Burt recalled.
Elaine Killeen was one of three victims in Surfside.
“When I reached the counter I found I had no wallet. I was devastated,” she remembered as she attempted to pay for her groceries.
When questioned by investigators, Hope confessed to several crimes.
“He did give a full confession on all three incidents. He admitted to committing the thefts. He was very apologetic and felt very bad for the victims,” said Det. Marian Cruz of the Surfside Police Dept.
Police arrested Hope after discovering he was already in jail for a parole violation. His prior arrests include robbery and battery on an officer.
“We’re very happy he is not going to commit crimes anymore. We had out his picture out on social media,” said Michelle Hammontree of Pinecrest Police.
Tips to Crime Stoppers helped police identify Hope.
“I say to old people, when you are going shopping, go with someone else because there are people out there looking for access to people like us. I’ll be 95 in May and when you get up there in age you tend to forget stuff,” Burt said.
While his memory might not be as sharp as it was when he was in the Air Force, Burt said he won’t forget the face of his alleged attacker.
“I’m happy he’s off the street and not being able to take advantage of people like me. Just be careful if you are shopping, especially if you are alone and old.”
Hope was charged with petit theft, grand theft, battery on a person 65 or older, and fraud-related charges.