Houston police are warning women about a crime that can be a serious problem during the holiday season. Crooks are grabbing purses out of vehicles, grocery carts and from women's shoulders as they walk through parking lots in area shopping centers.
"When shopping in stores, always hold your purse tightly or secure it with a strap around your body. Keep it zipped and closed," said HPD Assistant Chief George Buenik. "Don't place it on top of your car or on the trunk when loading groceries."
On Thursday, the police department joined with some of the city's largest retailers to promote the Safe Shopping Starts with YOU, safety campaign. This is the fourth year the program has been emphasized.
While it increases awareness, the program has also lead to a 3.5 percent decrease in purse robberies compared to last year, according to HPD.
But even while the number of incidents has declined, Barbara Wagner said it recently happened to her while she was shopping inside a well-known grocery store.
Wagner said she put her small pouch containing money and keys into a shopping cart and then turned around to look for something on the food shelf. When she turned back around, her personal items were missing.
"I ran around the store, thinking it fell out or dropped out some place," Wagner said.
While she was reporting the incident to the store manager, another woman walked up to report that her purse, containing cash and credit cards, had also been stolen.
"It's scary, unbelievable, and just an awful thing," said Wagner about her experience.
She is grateful that Houston police are warning women to remain alert and to protect their purses at all times.