PSA: How to avoid purse snatchers in Philly this summer

Philly Police and urban researchers agree: warm weather season is petty theft season.

Rittenhouse Square Parc Cafe
Flickr Creative Commons/Lloyd Ator

Warm weather in Philadelphia brings an abundance of al fresco enjoyment. All over the city, restaurants, bars, museums, libraries and fitness studios — and really, just about any business that can — take advantage of the season to expand activities to outdoor areas.

When you’re out enjoying a picturesque lunch or sipping drinks on a patio with friends, it’s hard to think anything could dampen your spirits. But there is something — theft.

Unfortunately, as much as the summer urban jungle is heaven for beer garden lovers, picnic enthusiasts and adventurous yogis, it’s also a haven for pickpockets and purse snatchers.

Plus, the hotter it is outside, the more tendencies for deviant behavior flare. Seriously, there’s extensive research behind this. And per a study in Chicago, street robbers prefer “the environs of cash economies” in the hours between lunchtime and dusk — so the fact that it’s light outside for so long during this season means opportunities for petty theft abound.

Fortunately, there are several easy steps you can take to avoid getting your stuff nabbed.

Combining advice from experts with info from police spokesperson Sgt. Eric Gripp, Billy Penn compiled these tips on how to stop purse snatchers from ruining your day.


  • Leave any zipper of your purse, briefcase, satchel or backpack open.
  • Wear too many flashy accessories, whip out expensive electronics or bring along snazzy “brand-name” bags.
  • Travel or commute with too many documents or credit cards — the sensitive information that could double the burden of a robbery by adding identity theft.
  • Look like you don’t know where you’re going. (Just strike a pose as you dip into Google Maps, no one will know a thing.)
  • Put your wallet or cash-clips in your back pocket even if your pocket has a button or a zipper to clasp it shut. (Guys, this one’s for you.)
  • Fish for things with your bags wide-open or without a hand securing and covering the bag.
  • Linger in crowds. If you have to — or, you know, enjoy street festivals and the like — keep your hands covering your purse or wallet at all times.


  • Use (if you can) bags with cross-body straps. If you’re shameless, a fanny pack is always a viable alternative.
  • Keep your bags between your legs or on your lap when sitting someplace.
  • Stay focused and avoid distracting commotions or the temptation to pause and window shop. (Bonus: that might also save you some spending $.)
  • Remember where you put your stuff. (Harder after a few drinks, but definitely key.)

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