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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A woman says a thief pretended to get gas next to her at an East Memphis Kroger, but then grabbed her purse and aimed a gun when she tried to get it back.

Memphis Police say gas stations have become hot spots for these types of crimes.

The Kroger Fuel Center near Poplar and Highland is often crowded, but the crowd didn’t stop thieves at 10 in the morning Friday.

A woman told officers she was getting gas when she noticed a man at the pump next to her.

Seconds later, she saw him coming out of her open, driver’s door holding her purse.

She says she tried to stop him, they fought, he jumped in his car and aimed a gun at her.

Another customer tried to stop the thief too, until that person saw that pistol.

Col. Marcus Worthy with Memphis Police says gas stations are prime spots for crooks, and women are targeted more than men.

“You have individuals who will hang around gas station,” Worthy said. ”You see someone pumping gas, grab the door, get the purse. Yhey literally get the purse and roll on out.”

In some recent cases the thieves even stole the car.

Officers say two teens and a man they’re looking for recently carjacked and beat a 69-year-old at a Whitehaven gas pump.

And days before that, police say a man held a woman at gunpoint at a gas pump on South Perkins before taking her car.

Drivers say these crimes should be a wake up call.

Police say gas stations offer a lot opportunity — cars unlocked, people busy, purses out. That’s why they hope drivers start paying attention.

Police say here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t keep your valuables in your car.
  • Carry your purse.
  • Don’t leave keys in the ignition.
  • Make sure your doors are locked.
  • Use a towel the same color as your car’s interior to hide belongings if you must keep them in your car.