How many times have you casually slung your purse on the passenger side of your car, grabbed your keys or a wallet, and dashed into a store or a ballgame?
I’ve done it countless times.
Recently, I got a wakeup call on just how vulnerable we become with this careless action.
In the course of a traffic stop last month, the Florissant Police Department arrested a 27-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman who had a pile of women’s purses in their car. The police recovered the identification of at least 10 women from Chesterfield, St. Charles and other local municipalities.
One woman, who did not want to reveal her identity, shared her story:
Her sons had a ballgame on Mother’s Day, and when the family was walking back to their car, they noticed the passenger side window had been smashed. She had left her purse on the floorboard of the passenger side.
“I felt completely violated,” she said. It was about more than just the value of her things. She felt uneasy that thieves had the pictures of her children that had been in her wallet. They now knew her home and work addresses, they had access to her credit cards and her personal information.
Women’s purses can be so much more than just bags. They are windows into our lives, our private diaries.
Six days later, she got a phone call from a Florissant police officer letting her know that they had recovered some of her stuff. She walked into a room with a table piled with dozens of purses and clutches and sifted through it until she found her things. The police detective told her the two suspects were heroin addicts who had been taking stolen purses to a pawn shop for months.
Sgt. Kevin Boschert, public information officer for the department, said there are three elements needed for a person to commit a crime: desire, motive and opportunity.
“The one area that citizens have the most control over is opportunity,” Boschert said. That means locking up your valuables and storing them out of sight or taking them with you.
“It is amazing the number of cars that are left unlocked,” he added.
The woman who had her purse stolen on Mother’s Day has e-mailed everyone on her sons’ baseball teams and everyone in her neighborhood association to warn them.
“Every woman I tell the story to, they say they leave their purses in the car all the time,” she said.
Regardless of how safe we feel in our neighborhoods, it just takes a simple crime — a smash and grab — committed in less than a minute, to shake that sense of security to its core.
—By Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch