I'm sure in Peoria's storied past, when it was known throughout the midwest as a place for booze and prostitution, pickpockets were in their glory. It's a "profession" at least as old as prositituion. It seems Peoria pickpockets are enjoying a resurgence. I received an e-mail message today that told of a colleague's misfortune at Barnes & Noble.
I don't want what happened to me Sat. afternoon at a book discussion group in the Barnes & Noble Cafe to happen to anyone else: my wallet was lifted from my purse when I was sitting right there, with it beside me on the floor and closed, where I could see it out of the corner of my eye. None of the other four participants noticed anything, either. It's just that my purse was much lighter when I picked it up to leave . . .
The interesting thing is that the police, when I filed a report, said that this is a problem both there and at Borders Cafe, and to a lesser extent at Panera's, both of them.
At all of these places, customers are invited to sit down, relax, read a book, sip a coffee. Get comfortable—and less cautious. That's great, just don't take your purse. From what I have read, the great pickpocket works alone and completely blends into the environment. At Barnes and Noble, she is probably reading "The World is Flat" and enjoying a latte.
When I'm going to be in a crowded place, I like to put my ATM card, license, and keys in a secure pocket and leave my purse at home. A purse is such a target. If you have to carry one, get one that closes securely, has a shoulder strap, and looks kinda cheap. Designers create some gorgeous purses, but most are better suited for dressing-table decorations than everyday use. They draw attention to you, make you look like you have money, and often fall open easily.
Being safe also, I believe, means wearing sensible shoes. How are you going to run in heels? Wear them out to dinner or the opera, but for daily treks to work or the store, leave the pumps and spikes at home.
I had a strange experience in a grocery store the other day. Staring dumbly at all the tomato sauces I could choose from, I didn't notice two young men enter the aisle. Until they started to seriously invade my space. I began to move along and they moved too, brushing up against me at one point. I was not relieved of any possessions—maybe they were in training.