We do live in perilous times

By Alan S. Chartock | November 17, 2022


The very thought of being the victim of a crime is enough to make your hair stand on end. It’s happened to me and maybe to you, as well. While we all know that there is no way to fully eliminate crime in a big city like the Big Apple there are things that we can do to protect ourselves from the crooks who share our streets.

The first thing we can do is make sure that we don’t advertise. If someone sees something they want, they might be tempted to take it. Things like wallets and purses need to be kept out of sight or secured in a way that won’t prove tempting. We know, for instance, that people have been known to place handbags or shopping bags on the floor next to their seats. This is nothing more than an invitation for a thief to “come and get it.”

What’s most important is to put our wallets and our valuables in places where pickpockets cannot get to them. I learned a long time ago that back pockets are not good storage places. First of all, if you put a wallet in your back pocket, it might slip out. Of course, there are some very good people who will return “found” valuables. Recently, that happened to me. My wallet slipped out onto a bench and within an hour it was returned to my home. Of course, one should not be surprised if the cash that was once in the wallet is no one there when and if the wallet is returned. A bag that straps across your body is much safer than a backpack when walking the city streets.

One does have to consider appropriate strategies when carrying cash. Just think about being on a subway. Think of all those times when your body is mashed up against so many other people. That’s a golden opportunity for pickpockets to ply their trade. Inside pockets in suit jackets are not even a surefire answer to preventing a crime. Women’s handbags are often vulnerable to the almost perfect sleight of hand artists.

There are so many ways that thieves can grab what you have, and it is extraordinary how many unsavory people there are roaming our streets and frequenting our stores. Most people have a lot of pockets so we each have to figure out less vulnerable places to put our valuables.

Robbery, of course, is not limited to stealing things that we are carrying on our persons. ‘Tis the season for porch robberies, and with the amount of online ordering, the porch bandits are out and about grabbing your Amazon boxes with impunity. A home security system might help, but a lot of these guys have figured out how to dodge the camera. Many of our homes have been broken into and valuables have been removed. When I lived in New York City, my apartment was cleaned out twice. People, you simply have to keep your doors and windows locked.

Anyone who is reading this and who has been robbed is aware of the sense of violation that comes with the crime. Once your home or office has been burgled, you never quite get over the sense of violation.

So if you are the victim of a robbery, what can you actually do? Most of these pickpockets are so good, you won’t know you were robbed until much later. If your robber is more blatant and you know you are being pickpocketed, you might yell, “HEY” at full volume. That might help.

Worse yet, we have been reading more and more of senseless attacks in which someone walks up to a victim and attacks them in broad daylight for no good reason. We are talking about punching or slapping them in broad daylight. We do live in perilous times.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected]