Suburban Legends 2: Defensive Purse-Clutching

This is the second post in my ongoing series of safety tips for tourists in Chicago. Part one is here.

You’re not especially likely to get your purse snatched in tourist areas of Chicago; pickpocketing is much more common, and even the two crimes combined amounted to on average just 6 incidents a day in the whole city of Chicago in 2015. As you can see from the handy map at the link, pickpockets are more active downtown, while purse snatchers are more active out in the neighborhoods. But neither is common enough to justify the amount of anxiety some visitors seem to experience over the possibility of becoming of victim. Statistically, you’re twice as likely to be shot in Chicago as have your pocket picked or purse snatched (except that you’re not at all likely to be shot unless you go to the neighborhoods where all the shootings happen, which you will not, so don’t worry about that.)

Okay, that didn’t go exactly where I wanted it to. My point is, you can have a more enjoyable experience visiting our pretty-safe-for-you city if you follow a few simple rules:

1. Put the shiny phone away. For one thing, you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, why not live in it for a minute or two? You can find out what your 8th grade math teacher had for dinner at Olive Garden when you get back to the hotel. Also, thieves love to just grab those things and run away with them, especially on the trains right after the doors open, or to pick your pocket while you’re snapchatting or whatever it is you people do all day long on those things.

2. Have a bag that closes and don’t keep anything you can’t afford to lose in it. (Carry credit cards, ID, cash, etc. in a front pocket).

3. Don’t wear your purse with the strap across your body, you’re just guaranteeing that you’ll be hurt if somebody does try to snatch it. From the thief’s point of view, most purse straps will break if you pull them hard enough, so wearing them cross-body is not a deterrent, and they’ve already committed a crime just by grabbing it, so they’re going to do their best to get it even if yours is strong. Ow.

4. Don’t clutch your purse tighter when you see black men. For one thing, this is Chicago, black men are supposed to be everywhere, they live here. For another, purse snatchers tend to come from behind, and use excessive force to guarantee a quick, successful snatch.* So, if you’re already looking at him, he’s not going to grab your purse, and even if he is, clutching it more tightly in your lady-hand isn’t enough to keep him from getting it away from you anyway. You’re just insulting people for no reason at all by doing that. Stop it.

*One time a guy crashed into my loosely-held handbag so hard his momentum carried him right to the ground with it in front of me. This was when I learned for absolute sure that I am not a badass. Instead of taking advantage of his temporary helplessness to grab my purse back, I just ran as hard as I could to get away from him before he could discover that there was nothing in there but tampons and cigarettes. And my pepper spray. (Sad trombone sound.)


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