November 23, 2010 - Historically, as each holiday season approaches, certain crimes tend to increase. One of these crimes is a form of pocket-picking that targets unsecured purses. The crime consists of an offender quietly lifting the wallet out of the interior of an open purse. This occurs often in eating or drinking establishments, although not exclusively. Many types of establishments are targeted, including grocery stores, movie theaters, medical or dental office complexes, churches and high foot-traffic retail businesses.
Picture this: a purse is hanging on the back of a chair at a table or at the bar. The purse is open or partially open. A seemingly non-threatening figure walks past the open purse. He (or she) casually reaches in and removes a wallet or billfold, then keeps walking, leaving the purse hanging on the chair. Taking the whole purse is more noticeable, so the inclination is to take only the wallet.
The theft is usually committed by a seasoned criminal who has perfected this tactic. Their movements are most times unrecognizable to the casual observer. Sometimes a distraction technique is employed. By the time the victim realizes their wallet is missing, the offender is long gone.
Most times these “crews” will keep the cash from the wallet and immediately attempt to use the victim’s credit cards. They will travel to a large, busy retailer and attempt to purchase gift cards and/or high-end electronics. Many times they’re successful in making at least some purchases.
Crew members tend to not be flashy. Quite the opposite; they’re fairly unassuming. They want to be invisible. Part of being invisible is not only how they dress, but also the time of day and the day of the week they prefer. To these types of criminals, the busier the establishment is, the better it is for them. It’s rare when they strike at 2:30 pm on a Wednesday, but a Saturday at noon in December? Priceless.
Perpetrators tend to be older; early 30’s to mid-40’s, give or take. They tend to be male, although it’s not unusual for a female to be with them or very close by. Rarely do they operate with multiple offenders to do multiple “picks” in a single business, although in larger facilities like grocery stores, there could be more than one.
• Be observant.
• Don’t leave an open target. Secure your purse.
• Consider keeping your cash/credit cards on your person as opposed to in a purse.
• Be mindful of your surroundings.
• Employ a buddy system. Watch each others’ “stuff.”
• Share these tips with your families, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Prevention is key. You can help protect yourself from being victimized by employing just a few common sense strategies.
For more information, contact the Vernon Hills Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit at 847-247-4889.