Streetwise Made Easy – Handbag Syndicate Thieves

By Morné Joseph

Handbag snatching has been going on for years. The past couple of years incidents where bags disappear was on the increase in the Durbanville area. A lot of these incidents has been reported to the police and a lot of these disappearing bags can be viewed online as recorded on cameras.
The modus is normally a team of 3 to 4 individuals, working in a team. Their main focus is to distract you or to blend in to your immediate surroundings. Now what do they snatch? Mostly handbags but cell phones are also a very likely attraction.
They enter a busy restaurant, pub or entertainment area under the disguise of being patrons. In certain situations, they would first send in a scout. This person is responsible to get a photographic image of the outlay of the premises. He/she would identify the target / victims. On return they know exactly what to do. They will get a seating close to you and as you are engaging with your friends, they get to work. Either one will start talking to you or he will just stand and obstruct your vision, whilst the other will be busy under your table, chair or getting to your bag hanging over the chair. Remember, music, booze, everyone is speaking loud etc… your focus are already disturbed as you engage with your friends or company at that moment. They will move your bag, wallet or cell phone bit by bit until it is easy to just walk out unnoticed. Most victims only discover afterwards that their belongings are taken. The hit was successful, what is the next thing to do? Change the vehicle registration number and clothing incase somebody identified them to give a description to the police.
How do you make yourself less of a target in these type of incidents.
1. Make sure you can see your handbag.
2. Ensure that your bag is zipped or buttoned that no hands can sneak in there.
3. Never leave your bag unattended. Always notify a friend in case you go to the bathroom etc.
4. Never hang your bag over the chair with your back facing it.
5. If you can, keep a body part connected to your bag. Swing your arm through the leash or handle.
6. Do not hang your bag over your arm with the zip or opening pointing to the back.
7. Keep your bag close to your body with the zip and opening always in front of you.
Being streetwise and exercising will make it harder for you to be a target and you will be in a mindset to easily identify when a potential threat is lurking. It saves you the inconvenience of getting a new driver’s license, ID document, important documentation or that R10 000 in cash you carry around 😉
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