Thieves target women filling up at gas stations

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Brave criminals are setting their sights on female drivers, while they fill their tanks just feet away.

Surveillance cameras from gas stations nationwide are catching the so-called "sliders" in action, crouching down and sneaking into car doors to grab purses from unsuspecting drivers. The entire crime takes less than 20 seconds.

"They say it's 'sliding,' because they're sliding below the eye level of the door," said Jim Woods, Houston Police Department.

WATCH: TODAY's 'Rossen Reports' on "sliders"

Even if the doors are locked, some crooks are using open windows to dive in and grab the loot.

"This is such an easy crime to commit, because they're in and out so quickly," said Susan Denkowski, a victim of the crime.

The thief that grabbed Denkowski's purse was also caught on camera.

"I never even thought to lock my doors, because I was just standing there, right next to my car," she said.

But it wasn't over yet.

Minutes later, while Susan was waiting for police to arrive, another crook hit the same gas station. As the white sedan pulled up to a female gas customer's SUV, the thief snuck out and tried to grab her purse from inside.

Denkowski saw the attempted heist and sprang into action.

"I ran out and I just started yelling, 'He's robbing you! He's robbing you!' I didn't want it to happen to her, it just happened to me. It's an awful feeling," Denkowski said.

That thief got away empty-handed.

While police nab some thieves, many are never caught, leaving women as vulnerable, easy targets at the pump.

Police say to protect yourself, you should take your purse out of the car and bring it with you to the pump while you fill up. But at the very least, lock your doors and roll up your windows, so when the thief tries to check your car from the other side, they can't get in.