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14 unattended handbags found in 30 minutes

The Daily Post
Sacha Molloy

5 August 2010

Absent-minded Rotorua shoppers are openly leaving their handbags unattended for light-fingered thieves to pinch.

The Daily Post carried out a sting in three local supermarkets and found 14 unattended handbags within just half an hour.

Rotorua Neighbourhood Support is doing its bit to try and prevent shoppers becoming victims of crime by slipping them a gentle reminder in their trolleys, in the form of a discreet pamphlet.

Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Barrie Fenton said unattended handbags were a big problem.

"People seem almost totally unaware of the possibilities. There are opportunists [who are] in and out, quick as."

He said supermarket carparks were another danger zone with many people leaving their bags while they returned their trolleys.

One woman recently lost thousands after her handbag was stolen from a Pak 'n' Save carpark. Her bank refused to pay out because she had her pin number on a piece of paper in her bag.

Neighbourhood Support volunteer Dorothy Parker takes a bundle of pamphlets with her every time she goes shopping. She has been dropping the pamphlets at the Central Mall Countdown for two years and said she got about four "hits" at each shop.

"I just go in quietly and slip a brochure into an open purse. Then I stand back to see their reaction. It's immensely satisfying to see their look of perplexity and embarrassment."

She said she felt the message was getting through to people.

"When I point out to people the danger they totally agree and thank me profusely."

Countdown Fenton St store manager Steve Green said he did not think handbag theft was an issue in supermarkets.

"People are very mindful of it in today's day and age. We haven't had any reports of theft for quite some time."

However, Mr Fenton said many of the thefts went unreported because people did not notice they were missing things until they got home.

Four unattended handbags were spotted within 10 minutes when The Daily Post visited the Fenton St Countdown during a Tuesday afternoon.

There were four in New World and six in Pak 'n Save - both within 10 minutes.

Barrie Fenton, co-ordinator for Rotorua Neighbourhood Support, which is leaving shoppers with unattended bags pamphlets as a security reminder, said the initiative had caught the eye of other Neighbourhood Support groups in New Zealand and they now wanted to adopt the same tactic.

"It's just about the ladies' personal safety. It helps to reduce crime, increase perception [of safety] and encourage people to take more responsibility."

Sergeant John Cassidy of the Rotorua police Intel said that though there had been no reports of handbag thefts in the past two months, it was always a good idea to keep bags within sight as thieves were always looking for opportunities.


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