Philadelphia police have arrested a woman suspected in nearly a dozen recent pickpocket crimes in Center City, authorities said.

Investigators nabbed Lakisha Edwards, 33, as she returned a rental car to a Crescentville business Saturday, said Sgt. Phil McAlorum of the Ninth District, which covers western Center City.

Rental cars were key to Edwards' effort to thwart police, McAlorum said.

Having been arrested 12 previous times for theft and forgery, Edwards rented different cars throughout her recent pickpocketing sprees to throw off witnesses and police, McAlorum said.

"She gets a new car each week, this was so there is nothing to trace her to," McAlorum said. "If someone sees her in a red car, the next week she gets a blue car."

Edwards, who is being held on $75,000 bail, has been charged in three Center City pickpocket thefts, McAlorum said. Detectives are reviewing surveillance video in eight other pickpocket crimes in which Edwards is a suspect, and charges may soon be filed in those cases, he said.

Like other pickpockets who target distracted victims in Center City coffee houses and cafés, Edwards plucked her victims' wallets out of purses hanging on the back of chairs, McAlorum said.

With the stolen credit cards in hand, she hurried to stores like Macy's and Nordstrom to run up thousands in fraudulent charges, he said.

These "sneak thieves," as police call them, have mostly replaced the more skilled pickpockets of other eras, police said.

And though they may no longer possess the finer skills of the larcenous art, these modern-day pickpockets are proving frustratingly efficient, law enforcement officials say.

According to police statistics, there have been 162 reported pickpocket incidents in Center City in 2013 - a slight increase from 2012.

Edwards was last arrested in November after a victim chased her out of the Corner Bakery on John F. Kennedy Boulevard. The victim was able to jot down Edwards' license plate number, and police were able to track the number to a car Edwards had rented.

But McAlorum said Edwards quickly posted $1,000 bail and went right back to picking purses.

"She walked out of prison and went right back to work," he said.

Before Saturday's arrest, McAlorum and his investigators were once again able to link a rental car to Edwards.

She will likely spend Christmas in prison.

215-854-2759 @MikeNewall