INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A weekend robbery on the north side of Indianapolis is serving as a scary reminder about staying safe during the holiday shopping season.
Sandy Bostic says she and her husband were shopping at Joann Fabric near 86th Street and Ditch Road around 5:30 Saturday evening. During a moment when her husband had stepped away, Bostic says a man suddenly walked up to her.
“When he got right next to me, he grabbed my purse,” Bostic said. “He shoved me, and I fell.”
Bostic says she wasn’t even looking away from her purse when it happened. She says she and her husband chased the thief outside, where he had a car waiting at the curb next to the entrance. Bostic and her husband each tried to get the purse back from the man, but he was able to drive away. She says she fell and hurt her knee as the car went speeding away from her.
“Not only did I lose what was in my purse, now I’m going to have a hospital bill,” Bostic said.
Bostic says she was able to quickly call and cancel the credit and debit cards in her purse, but she forgot about a health savings account card. Within a few hours, she says there were nearly $600 in new charges on the HSA card.
“There was three CVS, a Walgreens, a McDonald’s, a Marathon gas station,” she said. “But the big thing too is he now has my vehicle keys and my house key with my home address on my drivers license.”
Looking back on the incident, Bostic admits it was dangerous to chase after the robber, but she really wishes she had done something else differently.
“My purse will never be off my side,” she said. “I will always have my purse on me.”
That’s good advice, according to IMPD North District Commander Michael Wolley. A purse sitting in a shopping cart can be a tempting target for a crime of opportunity.
“To conceal your purse would be ideal in a coat or a pocket, something like that,” Wolley said. “If you have a purse, have a smaller purse. Is there an opportunity to just carry a wallet in a pocket?”
IMPD’s North District is preparing to launch their annual Holiday Helper Initiative, designed to help shoppers avoid becoming crime victims during the holiday shopping season. Starting this weekend, officers will increase patrols and visits to shopping centers to promote safe shopping habits. Some of that will include checking to see if stores have adequate signage to remind shoppers not to leave valuable items in their cars. Officers will also be passing out fliers with a checklist of common mistakes made during shopping trips.
Another part of the initiative will include officers walking through shopping center parking lots to see if shoppers are leaving their vehicles and valuables vulnerable to theft.
“It’s really just a quick check, the officer will take a quick glance at the car and see if there’s anything visible,” Wolley said. “Did they leave the car unlocked? Is the car running? Those are all things that people who are looking to perpetrate crimes will look for.”
Shoppers may find one of the fliers stuck under their windshield wiper when they return to the parking lot. The flier may have a check next to one of several common errors the officer found. Those include GPS/radar in view, money/wallet/purse in view, bags left in view or phone/tablet/laptop in view. Other checkmarks may be left next to things like “Your vehicle is running while left unattended” or “Vehicle left unlocked.”
If a car appears properly secured, the flier may be marked with “Your vehicle was secure and gave no indication of any valuables inside… good job!”
Other holiday shopping safety tips include;
- Park in a well-lit space as close to a store as possible
- Have keys in hand while walking to and from stores
- Shop in groups
- Make eye contact with others around you so potential crooks know they’ve been seen
- Avoid getting too distracted on your phone while shopping, be aware of others around you
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
- Keep credit card numbers and phone numbers on backs of credit cards safely stored somewhere handy so you can quickly call to cancel a card if it’s stolen