How to Avoid Being a Pickpocket's Victim

'Tis the season for crime, police say.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Along with the shoppers at the malls this holiday season will be crooks wanting your purses and wallets. (Published Friday, Dec 10, 2010)

    'Tis the season for crime, police say.

    Malls and streets chock full o' shoppers getting caught in the hustle and bustle of the holidays are ideal for those less honest among us.

    Pickpockets are out there.

    Chicago police are stepping up patrols along the busy shopping corridors of Michigan Avenue, State Street and public transportation, but being victimized can be prevented with a big of awareness and vigilance.

    "Just like you look both ways when you cross the street, you need to look at people on either side of you," Lt. John Wittenberg.

    He advises that women keep their purses close to their body.  Men should keep their wallet in their chest pocket versus the back pocket of their jeans.

    Be extra aware in scenarios that pickpockets love: revolving doors and elevators can make many people easy targets.  You may feel you've been bumped into innocently, but your pockets may have been picked and your belongings passed off to someone else before you even know what happened.

    Thieves will also try to distract their victims.  Maybe they'll ask for directions are pull your attention away from your stuff just long enough for an accomplice to get away with it.

    "If you feel someone bump behind you, it’s usually because they are trying to distract you," said Wittenberg.

    Chicagoan Cathy Douglas said she's had her purse stolen off her twice.  One time, she said, the purse straps were cut right off her shoulder and the crook ran off.

    "I'm always holding my purse.  I never leave it in the cart," she said.

    Police also advise locking up packages in the trunk, not flashing credit cards and guarding your PIN when at an ATM. 

    Also guard your receipts, which can contain financial information.

    "Out of sight, out of mind," says Wittenberg.  Make it easy for thieves and they will target you, make it difficult and they will find someone else.