KINGSTON — Brian Keith Smith Jr. had just fallen asleep in a cell at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility when he was awakened early Wednesday afternoon.
Kingston police wanted Smith on a warrant charging him with stealing two purses.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Smith was arraigned on charges filed by Edwardsville police on a string of purse snatchings and separate burglaries at the same house.
“Through the investigation of multiple purse thefts, we were able to come through with information and track him down,” said Edwardsville police Sgt. Hal Bond. “There are a total of four purse thefts, and an attempted theft in Kingston and a burglary of a home in Edwardsville.”
Smith was arraigned just before 9 a.m. by District Judge Paul Roberts on five counts of theft, two counts each of burglary and criminal trespass and a single count of robbery filed by Edwardsville police.
Later in the day at about 1:30 p.m., Roberts arraigned Smith on three counts of robbery and two counts of criminal attempt filed by Kingston police. Bail on the seven sets of criminal complaints is $35,000.
Police in the two neighboring municipalities allege Smith targeted people returning to their vehicles in shopping centers or outside banks who placed their purses on the passenger-side seat. He would then open the passenger-side door and swipe the purse, then drive away in a 1999 Buick, police said.
“I believe it would have continued to happen,” Bond said, if Smith had not been captured. “It happened yesterday (Tuesday), it happened three times in the past week and a half; I believe he would have come back. He has a drug problem, he told me. Heroin.”
Smith was arrested by Edwardsville police when a silver Buick was stopped at about 1:06 p.m. Wednesday. Smith was a passenger in the Buick, police said.
According to the criminal complaints:
• Sept. 24, 3:13 p.m: Smith entered a Nissan parked outside Citizens Bank on South Wyoming Avenue. A bank manager confronted Smith, who stole a global positioning system, an iPod and sunglasses. A bank customer said Smith tried to steal an envelope containing $1,500 as the customer was walking into the bank.
• Sept. 24, 3:59 p.m: Smith grabbed a purse from a woman in the parking lot of Gerrity’s Market on Union Street, Pringle.
• Sept. 23, 1:31 p.m: Smith opened a passenger-side door of a vehicle and stole a purse when two women were getting into the car after shopping at Dollar Tree in Edwardsville. Smith drove away in a silver 1999 Buick.
• Sept. 22, 12:36 p.m: Smith stole a purse from the passenger seat of a vehicle parked near Ollie’s Restaurant in the West Side Mall parking lot.
• Sept. 13, 5:29 p.m: Smith stole a purse from the passenger seat of a vehicle while it was occupied by a woman near Ollie’s Restaurant in the West Side Mall parking lot.
• Aug. 13, 4:20 a.m: Police allege Smith stole two video game systems and a DVD player during a burglary on Washington Street.
• Aug. 5, 9:53 p.m: Police allege Smith stole a 55-inch television during a burglary at the same Washington Street residence of the Aug. 13 burglary.