HOUSTON – A Pecan Grove woman went running to stop a criminal in his tracks as she waited for police at a Houston gas station.
Susan Denkowski says she knew what was happening because the same thing had just happened to her.
Denkowski was filling up her tank around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Exxon at 9200 South Main, located right across the street from Reliant Stadium.
As she was standing next to her Avalanche truck, a criminal was getting to work on the other side of the vehicle.
Surveillance video shows a sedan pull up alongside of the truck. In just seconds, a thief crouches out of the passenger side door of the sedan and opens the driver’s side door of Denkowski’s truck.
The criminal snatched her purse and immediately got away.
“You don’t even know it’s happened to you because you’re on the other side of the car,” said Susan Denkowski. “They’re not out to kill you or hurt you. They just want your money.”
Denkowski couldn’t believe how quickly it happened.
“They got cash and gift certificates. I had my passport, my driver’s license, my social security card, birth certificate. I lost all of my identification.”
She then waited inside the Exxon to fill out a police report. About 45 minutes later, she witnessed a different car preying on another woman pumping gas.
Denkowski sprung into action and ran outside.
”I was screaming, and I was saying, ‘he’s robbing you, he’s robbing you.’ He saw me running toward him, and he jumped into the car,” she said. “I didn’t want it to happen to her, and I just thought whatever I could do to stop it.”
During the second incident, the criminal took off empty handed.
Denkowski isn’t sure if these criminals are working together or if this is just a popular crime. She noticed both of the cars that struck on Wednesday had temporary paper plates posted over the regular license plates.
“Obviously they know how to do this. They’ve been doing it for a while,” she said.
The Exxon where both incidents happened is frequented by people heading to or leaving Reliant Stadium. The gas station is expected to be extra busy over the next several weeks because of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Denkowski, who is a rodeo volunteer, wonders if criminals are specifically targeting the area because of the big crowds.
Houston police couldn’t confirm if there has been a spike in purse snatchings or car burglaries near Reliant Stadium. However, police say whenever there are increased crowds, there are increased opportunities for crimes.
Police urge you always lock your car doors when pumping gas and always keep your purse with you. They also suggest only bringing along the cash and credit cards that you intend on using.