LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Something as simple as renting a movie could make you a target for crime. People are getting robbed at the Redbox video rental machines you see all around town. And as WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Eric Flack uncovered, as their popularity spreads, so does the opportunity for criminals.
A movie rental turns into a horror story. A woman using a Redbox video rental kiosk never sees a robber sneaking up behind her. He snatches her purse and takes off taking her down in the process. She runs back inside the store to get help as he makes his getaway.
The surveillance camera video, obtained exclusively by the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department, is part of the case against 33 year old Gary Thurman Jr. He's now charged with first degree robbery for the December 13th 2011 incident at the Redbox outside a Walgreens on 3rd Street in South Louisville. Thurman was arrested after investigators spotted him on camera lurking outside and waiting for his victim to stop and rent a movie before making his move.
Sgt. Pat Bass of Louisville Metro Police Department said Redbox machines appeal to criminals in the same way ATM''s do: people with their back turned, and purse or wallet exposed.
"That is the prime time to get you," Sgt. Bass said. "I'm not trying to get anybody paranoid about always looking over your shoulder, but you need to know what's behind you."
And not just in Louisville. The WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department discovered Redbox robberies across the country.
January 17th, 17-year-old Asage Strozier, was arrested for robbery with a firearms after a Redbox robbery in Port St. John, Florida. Two days later, 24-year-old Rufino Ovalle-Chun was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery for a Redbox robbery in Houston, Texas.
Two other suspects are still at large for a second Redbox robbery in Houston. Police in Lincoln, Nebraska are looking for two men seen in a surveillance photo after a Redbox robbery last summer. And police are still trying to figure out who robbed a woman at gunpoint using a Redbox machine in Knoxville, Tennessee
Jeana Dunlap is a Redbox regular but the Old Louisville resident said all the robberies have her thinking twice.
"People are desperate these days," Dunlap said. "You kind of are a target especially if you go when there aren't a lot of people around."
In an email, a Redbox spokesperson told us the company averages 59 million transactions a month and only a small percentage result in crime.
"Consumer safety is a priority" Redbox Kate Brennan wrote. "We work closely with our retail partners to place our kiosks in high traffic areas, with ample lighting and close proximity to entrances."
But even Brennan seemed to acknowledge the risks.
"While we strive to provide a safe retail experience and incidents at our kiosks are rare, it is important for consumers to be aware of their surroundings at all times."
Sgt. Bass said it's also a good idea to check out the Redbox before you approach. Make sure there's good lighting and no questionable individuals standing nearby. Try not told hold your wallet in your hand or put your purse down on the ground. And try to choose high traffic areas, and be aware of the time of day as well. It's never a good idea to do any transaction late at night.
Dunlap said she is aware of her surroundings whiner she rents a movie at a Redbox.
"I do look over my shoulder," she said.
Watching out to make sure she don't end up with the leading role in a scene being played out at Redbox's all across the country.
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