After a recent trip to a neighborhood supermarket, a young mother was unloading her groceries into the car, her purse slung over her shoulder and her 8-month-old daughter sitting in the grocery cart. Suddenly she was knocked backward onto the ground and dragged a few feet across the parking lot by a woman trying to pry her purse away. The would-be robber eventually gave up and ran to a car parked a couple of aisles over. Another woman was waiting in the driver’s seat, and they sped off toward the exit.

This attempted robbery took place during broad daylight — 11:30 a.m. to be exact. Does that happen often, or are residents more likely to be mugged after nightfall?

People who do these kinds of things look to shopping centers when they’re busy. It could be Saturday during the day; it could be an evening when people are getting off work and running into the store to get something. They’re typically looking for a time when people are going to be around. You’ve always got exception to the rules whenever you’ve got criminals, but a purse snatching in broad daylight — that’s not that unusual.

The robbers had backed into a parking space on an aisle near the exit, only two aisles away from where the mother was unloading her groceries. Is it safer to park toward the center of a parking lot? Toward the front?

Any criminals with a vehicle are usually going to park in places where they can get away fairly quickly. My opinion is it’s generally safer to park near the front where there are a lot of people coming and going and people can see you, but crowded parking lots don’t always let you do that. At least park where your door is going to be facing the store. The more people can see something, the greater change you have of people helping you or stopping it or, like on this one, getting good witnesses.

What should women do with their purses when unloading purchases into their vehicles? What about mothers — should they load their children into the car first?

I would throw my purse in first, then I would put my kids in and put my bags in, and have the door unlocked only on the side where I’m at. That way they can’t reach in on the other side, grab the purse and run off. Typically when the bad guys are stealing cars, they don’t want them with kids in there. We’ve seen it happen, but they want the car, not the kid.

And don’t take these purses that are hanging off your shoulder. Fanny packs are not all that attractive, but it’s right there in front of you, you don’t have to hold it, and you’ve got your kids to hold, also.

Only take what you need — one credit card or the cash you need. I know from experience that with kids that’s hard, because you’ve got diaper bags, car seats … but the big thing is not having those purses hanging off and always being aware of your surroundings.

One of the other things we notice is people coming and going from the store, purse hanging off and holding kids, and on their cell phone. Get off of that cell phone so you can pay attention to what’s going on.

This story has a happy ending: The robbers didn’t make off with a dime, and the mother was a little scraped up, but fine, as was her daughter. Plus, she was able to note the license plate number while another witness took a good look at the suspects and the direction they were headed, giving officers enough information to arrest the two women at an apartment complex within 24 hours of the crime. Are robbers usually this easy to bag?

Trying to remember anything you can really helps us. License numbers are extremely helpful, and if they can get that vehicle description, it helps officers in the area who may not be the one answering the call, but they hear it. We catch a number of suspects like that because of good witnesses.

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