PLYMOUTH, Minn -- As a communications consultant whose office is her car, Alex West Steinman didn't realize how much was at stake inside her SUV, until a trip to West Medicine Lake Park on a Monday afternoon.
What began as a trip to the playground, ended with her SUV stolen, a car filled with her work laptop, wallet, and children’s gear. She parked her car and walked a short distance to the playground with her two children, and a stroller.
“I just took my phone and keys, all I really needed, so left my wallet, of course, in the car,” said West Steinman, looking back on the day that would bring a valuable lesson.
She tucked her keys in a stroller pocket, out of sight, and turned to play with her three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter, and a half hour later, returned to the stroller to find her keys gone.
“I kind of panicked a little bit,” she recalled. “My car was gone and there was another car in the spot where my car was, we were just shocked.”
Police found her car abandoned two days later in Minneapolis with an empty tank. Her SUV was trashed and stripped of everything inside, her purse, wallet, laptop, children’s car seats. She said it still reeks of marijuana.
“I had shoes and toys and books for kids, gone as well, my daughter’s blanket was taken,” she said.
Through bank records, West Steinman learned four teenage boys tried but failed to use her credit card to buy shoes at a store in Brooklyn Park.
The playground panic behind her, she wants to make sure other families aren't caught off guard.
“It feels weird to feel unsafe in your own community,” said West Steinman. “I think it's just a lesson to always be vigilant and always keep an eye on your stuff. There are bad people out there watching for opportunities or vulnerability, especially when you are focused and keyed in on your kids, clearly they took advantage of that situation for me.”
She’s now keeping her valuables out of her close and close to her at the playground, and after posting about her scare on social media, is grateful for all the help offered.
“I have so many people come out and say, ‘can I help you with car seats, cook you dinner while you chase down these thieves?’ People have been so nice and kind, there is definitely some bring light behind a little bit of a lesson,” said West Steinman.
The Minneapolis Crime Lab took fingerprints from the stolen car. Plymouth police officers are also investigating.