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Egregious lack of security

Original post made by YSK, Old Palo Alto, on Jul 8, 2009

On Friday, June 26 at 10:30pm, I went shopping at Safeway, Midtown. I was in the midst of a big move, and as a result had put a lot of important things that were going to my new home the next morning into my purse. I was picking up a few necessities at Safeway, and while loading my car, I (already highly stressed by the move)was distracted by something.

As a result I stupidly left my black purse in the cart. I was using one of the smaller baskets that is itself dark, the bags stood out, the purse did not. The bags were on top of the purse, I simply did not see it in the cart.

I wheeled my cart back to the North entrance, and left. Only when at E. Charleston did I notice that my purse was not in the car. I promptly turned around and raced back to Safeway. I conducted a huge search, but the purse was gone and had not been turned in.

After a bout of hysterics, (since so much of what was in the purse was important to my daily life due to the move), and because I swear if I get any more stressed out or experience any more loss I will simply incinerate from spontaneous internal combustion; the police came and a very nice and as I came to find out over the next few days and interactions; competent officer took down the details for me.

When I got home I promptly called my bank, only to find out that no, some HONEST person did NOT find my purse and bring it home to return to the owner the next day.

What I found out was that SCUM had found the purse, and almost immediately proceeded to El Camino to use my card at a gas station. Charge: $1.00. Something the bank explained to me that criminals do when they are trying to ascertain if a card is valid. Then they later purchase something more to their liking than gas.

I was excited in a way to hear that they went to the gas station, let the police know immediately, then was let down to find out their security cameras were on the fritz. Something a cop friend of mine warned me most likely would be the story. Not only were the camera's not working, but the drowsy clerk couldn't recall what cars were at the pump. Only two sales at that hour, but he can't remember. If it were me working a late shift, I would be very much aware who came and went from my place of employment if only as a matter of personal safety! At Safeway, we found out that the security camera does not cover the parking lot or even the entrance.

My question? WHY? Why are these camera's not working or covering the parking lots? Palo Alto is not the safe haven that it once was. Crime touches us here too. Yeah, totally my bad leaving that purse in that cart. More bad though, is the creep who found it and decided to use it for their own purposes. Whoever it is, they disgust me. I had in there an ID Card from my recently deceased Dad...a checkbook wallet which was a Christmas present from my daughters. My Blackberry, encased in phone holder which was another gift. Medication from a recent shoulder surgery, here I was moving and spent the weekend in pure physical agony. Many other small personal items that were MINE, and meant something to ME. I am job hunting, broke beyond belief. My last $22 was in that purse. So was a friends garage door opener, my daughter's IRS check, and a small victims restitution check made out to me because I was previously the victim of a crime.

Yes, I was stupid to leave my purse in that cart. Thing is, if someone else had done that, and I was the one that came across it, no worries. I would have done the RIGHT thing, promptly handed it over to the store manager or the police. I have done that before. Found $450 bucks cash once, in a wallet, when I was financially strapped with a utility turn off notice... but I still did the right thing and found the owner. Wasn't the first time I did the right thing, and in spite of what just happened, won't be the last.

It makes me sick to my stomach to think how vile and base some people can be. It angers me that we don't have working security systems in this City. A woman had her purse forcibly removed from her at that Safeway, and Midtown had a lot of problems with assault crimes last year. Gas stations, according to now two banks I have talked to, are the first place a lot of these scumbags go with a newly aquired ATM/Credit card, to check their validity. Why are these stores not stepping up their security? It's not all that expensive, and it helps them as much as it helps us.

Last, please, if anyone has found a purse, or random things that appear to belong to someone and you don't know where they came from, please turn them in to the Palo Alto PD. Thanks.

Comments (12)

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I have always felt that credit card and check purchases should require a thumb print and, now that digital photography is here, a picture. The cost to the merchant would be pennies per transaction, and the gain to all from fewer fraudulent transactions would be significant.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I like that idea Walter, and I sure wouldn't mind the extra second it would take to put my thumb to the pad~


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Posted by Not secure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2009 at 7:06 pm

If you get a credit card now in Europe they are much more secure with eye recognition technology. I have heard that the credit card companies will not do that here because it would be too expensive to change all the ATMs and credit card readers. It's still cheaper for them to reimburse card holders for illegal charges. If you go to Europe there are places that will no longer read our old style credit cards, because they are not considered secure.


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Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 8, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I know how you feel. I too had my purse stolen from my basket about ten years ago at Safeway Midtown - did the same thing, left my purse in the cart at night. It contained a treasured keepsake from my daughter. Another customer that same night had her purse in a bag of groceries while she loaded her infant back into a car seat then struggled with the groceries. When she got home, the purse was gone. The exterior lights at Safeway Midtown have been malfunctioning at night.

And I stopped a purse snatcher at the Menlo Park Safeway because I had taken the baby seat strap and strapped in my purse by winding that strap around my purse handle many times. This happened in the store when an in-aisle display was 'accidently' knocked down and there was a lot of confusion. The would-be thief put her hand on my purse and yanked - and it didn't go anywhere. I yelled and she ran out of the store. It's a jungle out there. Beware. I do not recommend women going to any supermarket at night and alone if at all possible. You can ask for an escort to your car.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:28 am

This wouldn't work in all situations (e.g., gas pumps), but would it be that difficult to require all retail clerks to ask for a photo ID when accepting a credit card? This step is usually required for checks...

No technology needed. Just a simple little step that adds 15-30 seconds to the purchase process.


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Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:47 am

Mary, I feel incredibly sad because half of that stuff in that purse were cherished gifts and in the case of my Dads old IBM id card, a personal remembrance momento; violated to the point of nausea, and angry because I am so tired of low life people causing harm to others. I have commented on other crime stories, and people think I am hard line to the point of being vicious about criminals, and this in part, is why. Again, I screwed up, no question. Thing is, if people did the right thing, my screw up would be simply a stupid mishap, not the mess and upset it turned out to be. Our U Haul key was in that purse, and even though we took out the insurance, we had to call a locksmith to come out and make a new key. That was expensive as anything, and because I am broke and job hunting, my poor kid had to pay for it. I am so angry, I feel that people who do things like this have no value as human beings, because they don't value others. Sorry if that offends the more liberal out there, but that's how I feel. I have been a victim of crime four times before, crimes in which I had absolutely NO fault, and each time I have learned a little bit more about the kind of 'people' who do these things. If someone really needed the money fine, KEEP the money, just please give back the rest of the stuff. That would mitigate the circumstances a bit~


I believe they kept the medications and money, cards, etc, but threw the purse someplace. I had my Blackberry in it along with three freshly charged replacement batteries, and the phone was never used. Obviously the purse was tossed. I just hope if someone finds it, or finds stuff somewhere that appears out of place, they turn those items in to the police department. It is a black Furla drawstring purse with silver loops on the ends of the draw string.

CP Dad and Not Secure? Having surveillance cameras working, especially at 24 hour gas stations would be a good first step toward being able to indentify dirtbags. Especially annoying when they HAVE it, but don't bother repairing it after it's been on the 'fritz' for THREE WEEKS. Inexcusable. Midtown Safeway? I also hold YOU partially accountible. You are another 24hr. facility and should have more security measures as well. In my case it would have been helpful, in the case of the woman who had to use a cane to walk and had her purse snatched by those awful kids, it would have been maybe pivotal. We pay a lot to live in this community and shop at your stores. Make it safe for us and worth our while to patronize Palo Alto!


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Posted by John the Man
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2009 at 11:55 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2009 at 10:01 am

I'm sorry for the loss of your belongings and I'm glad that if you had to be the victim of a crime, you were not harmed. For some reason that midtown Safeway is a center for a lot of these crimes. I know several people who have been robbed there. It can be very easy to pilfer a wallet from the purse in a shopping cart. I'm afraid the reason Safeway doesn't aim the cameras at the parking lot is because their cameras are to protect Safeway, not its customers. Once you've paid for your items, you're on your own. I have also had my purse stolen and it brings up a particular kind of grief - things in it can be very personal and integral to daily life.
A couple of things I've learned that might be helpful to others: If you must leave something valuable in the car, hide it or cover it well - if they can't see it, they are much less likely to break a window just in case.
It turns out thieves are trolling the peninsula constantly - they have routes and favorite spots to check out, and they will target specific kinds of events; for example, a parking lot where a lot of parents and children will be coming and going - they know parents will be distracted and in a hurry and are likely to leave valuables in the car rather than risk having it in a crowd. Also, we may think that with so many people around they wouldn't take the risk. But they rely on the confusion of the crowds to keep us distracted.
Finally, if your car is the one with one side against a screen of shrubs or a dark corner, yours is the one they'll target. Try and park where all of your windows are visible from the road or other area where there will be people.


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Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I was stupid, distracted and stupid. I accidentally left my purse in the cart and returned it to the front of the store. It was dark, the cart was dark, the purse was dark...

I am mostly lamenting the lack of honesty in some people, and am angry at the fact that if Palo Alto Shell had their security camera's working (they were malfunctioning for 3 weeks) or if Safeway had a camera trained on the parking lot as well as within their own store, it is quite possible we would know who these scumbags are.

Think about it, they have my personal information. They have keys, garage door openers, bank items. If the camera had been working at Palo Alto Shell, we may have been able to ID these scumbags. If they did that with my stuff, trust me, they have done it with others before. So the crime goes on and these merchants only protect themselves. I will not patronize these establishments again until they get their act together.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2009 at 1:09 pm

There have often been discussions on Town Square about closed circuit tv cameras and there are those who think that cctv is a great idea for the safety of everyone of us who are going about our business, there are those who think that it is just too expensive to put everywhere, those who think that the grainy photos don't work even as a deterrant and those who don't want their privacy invaded.

CCTV is everywhere in Britain and even the very sceptical British realise that it is helping to reduce and solve crime. We must get to the same mentality here. Of course Safeway is going to be more interested in their investment on security cameras to protect their store and its contents. They are paying for that. What we need to get is a movement whereby the general public can be protected by cctv in crime areas and elsewhere.

City council, please take note.


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Posted by an end to pursesnatching
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I had a purse stolen, and sympathize with YSK's predicament. Those kinds of incidents always seem to happen at the worst time. I did hear a study on NPR that claimed that your wallet is more likely to be returned to you if you have a baby photo in it -- but those were wallets that were "lost" deliberately, not stolen wallets.

Also, that $1 gas station scam is standard practice for criminals. Don't all credit card issuers flag the card immediately? Unless the person who uses the card looks exactly like you (so the ID matches) that card should be confiscated and the police called the next time it's used.

That said, I can't understand why so many women still carry purses, especially purses with valuables in them. A purse makes you so vulnerable! When I go shopping, I stick a credit card in my pocket and my cell phone in another pocket. No worries about leaving my valuables unattended or having them yanked off my arm in a moment. If you're out with your kids for a few hours and need to carry a lot of stuff, you can put the diapers, toys, snacks in a handbag -- and still keep your credit card and phone in your pocket. Don't mean to blame the victims, but we just leave ourselves open to crime when we walk around carrying a purse.


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Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm

YSK is a registered user.

I was moving, and was going to put my valuables at my new place in the morning....that's why I had a purse with so many valuable things in it. And, it wasn't snatched, I screwed up and left it in my cart. It was taken by horrible people to whom I wish nothing but the worst possible Karma.


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