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Holocaust survivor grandmother hunts purse-snatching thief

NEW YORK -- A 77-year-old Queens woman and Holocaust survivor is taking matters into her own hands after a thief snatched her purse from a shopping cart while at a market in a Queens neighborhood. 

Bertha Presz, known as "Bobbi" to her family and friends, said she was looking at egg carton when a man walked by her cart and took her handbag containing cash, credit cards, a cell phone and a driver's license. The thief stuffed it under his shirt and strolled out of the store, Brach's Glatt Kosher Meat Market. The thief didn't realize he had been caught on surveillance tape when he walked of the store in Kew Gardens Hills.

When Presz realized her purse was missing, "I yelled out, 'Somebody stole my bag!' And everybody started running around," she said.

The stunned woman first rushed to store office, then filed a police report. But detectives at the 107th Precinct in Flushing quickly moved on to other cases, even after Presz's daughter managed to trace the cell phone. 

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"Unfortunately, if there's a shooting, it's very serious. But this also is serious," said Presz, who grew up in Belgium and escaped the Nazis as a child. 

When the grocery store sent Presz black-and-white copies of photos copied from the surveillance tape, the feisty grandmother of five pounded the pavement and went to area businesses, asking if anyone recognized the thief. 

"It's very typical of my mother to do something like that," said daughter Hindy Laster, laughing. "It was very hot that day, and I begged my mother not to do it."

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Presz's efforts drew the attention of a community activist, who began pressing for a renewed investigation. Police then began distributing fliers of the suspect -- a tribute to Presz's persistence.

"Maybe I'm a little stubborn," she conceded. For her part, Presz vows never to leave her handbag on the seat of her shopping cart again. 

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