Prevent holiday theft – How to avoid a Purse snatching or Vehicle burglary

Thief stealing from handbag of a woman

Prevent holiday theft – How to avoid a Purse snatching or Vehicle burglary

Reduce your Risk of becoming a Victim this Holiday season


Any police department in the United States will tell you, theft crimes (especially purse snatchings and vehicle burglaries) are highest during the holiday season. With the sheer volume of cars and people it's easy for thieves to blend in and commit crimes of opportunity.


How to protect yourself:

Leave your purse at home. Get a small wallet you can fit into your front pocket, or strap to your body, for your cash, ID, and debit/credit card. Your coupons, keys, and phone can be carried separately in a small zippered bag or pouch or in your other pockets.

If you must have your purse – tuck it or strap it. Shorten the strap so you can hold it tightly tucked under your arm, or lengthen it to wear diagonally across your body. Don’t sling a purse over your shoulder sticking out behind you. You can also strap your purse under a sweater, hoodie, or coat. If the place you’re shopping has carts, use the child strap available on them to strap in your purse. This prevents someone from just lifting it and walking away. It does not, however, prevent someone from reaching into an open purse, so be sure it’s closed at all times.

Shop with a friend. Whenever possible, have someone with you. When shopping alone, try to walk into and out of the store with another shopper, especially if it’s at night or beginning to get dark. If feeling nervous, don’t be shy to ask store personnel for a quick escort. They are happy to help a customer keep safe.

Pay attention to traffic. To help prevent a drive-by purse snatching, walk on the side of the street or parking lot that faces traffic, so you can see vehicles approaching you while en route to your destination.

Make thieves move on. Thieves observe and watch for a good mark. They want people who are distracted. Distractions can include listening to music, talking on a cell phone, appearing oblivious to what is going on, and/or standing with one’s back to personal belongings. (Such as browsing while your purse is in a cart behind you, or loading groceries while frequently turning away from the cart). Deter theft and make thieves move on by being the opposite.  For example, if you have to use your phone, look up and around while talking. Move with purpose, surveying your surroundings frequently, and do not ignore or dismiss any gut feelings of uneasiness about a person or an area.

Get your keys out before exiting a building to the parking lot. Don’t fumble around by your vehicle digging for your keys in your purse or pockets. Have them out, in hand, and walk purposefully to your car. Once there, if you have a purse, put it in first, but be sure to place it in a hard-to-reach place. Don’t just throw it on the seat. That makes it too easy to grab while you’re busy loading your purchases.

Get items out of sight. First of all, leave all unneeded items at home. Then, try to get everything from a large store or mall in one trip to the car. You can become a target if thieves observe you putting items into your vehicle and then going back to shop some more. If you absolutely must take purchases to your car, quickly, and without drawing attention, hide them by covering them up, or putting them in storage compartments. One good way to hide purchases from potential criminal view is to have lidded boxes or storage bins you can set items in, and put the lid on. This prevents a criminal from knowing what is inside, decreasing the likelihood they’ll want to take a chance on your stuff and break into your vehicle. They’ll move on. And, most of all, don’t forget to lock up the vehicle every time!

Stranger danger. We teach children to be wary of strangers, and as adults out holiday shopping, be wary yourself. Without being too cynical, be wary of a stranger approaching you for any reason. Criminals will use a variety of techniques to distract you while lifting personal belongings or purchases.


Finally, plan ahead how you would respond if someone tried to steal your purse, wallet or purchases. If someone attempts to take your property by force, let it go. Your safety should be the number one priority. Rather than expending energy trying to prevent the theft, try to focus on memorizing descriptive elements for law enforcement. You’ll be safer physically, and in a better position to describe the thief to police.