NewsChannel 3 Investigates: Protecting your valuables from purse predators

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HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Whether it is a quick walk down the street or to your car, or even if you set it down for an instant, thieves need only seconds before your purse and all of its valuables can disappear.

Within an hour in a Virginia Beach Target, NewsChannel 3 found many purse problems, from shoppers leaving their bags unzipped, to leaving them unattended in shopping carts.

"A lot of us have that mentality that it can't happen to us, that's not going to happen to us, it can happen to you," says Suffolk Police Detective Heather Linville. "It's the nature of the crime, they do whatever is easiest for them."

Detective Linville says many purse thefts are crimes of opportunity.

However, with styles, color, and sizes often the priority, when fashion faces off with protection, who wins?

NewsChannel 3's Kelly Rule brought her personal collection to Suffolk Police Headquarters to find out.

"I mean you see all different sizes here, out of these smaller is preferred, definitely, because you're not going to have as much taken from you and it's less for them to grab a hold of."

When it comes to safety, Detective Linville does recommend the "cross-body" purse.

However, she does warn that it can pose a safety risk if someone really wants to try to steal it.

"Be aware that if something were to happen, yes, that could cause you to maybe fall or something," she says. "Once again, there are lots of people out there and they don't want the one person who they're going to have to struggle with."

If you have a bigger, flashier bag, or the purse that's meant to be carried around your wrist, you are not necessarily at risk.

However, that is if you are carrying it right.

"Don't make it easy for them, don't hold it out for them," said Detective Linville.

Police say another major issue for shoppers, especially when shopping with a cart, is leaving a purse in the cart unprotected.

"So many people leave the purse there and they will turn around and not notice what is going on," says Rosanne Hinshaw.

An easy fix: use the child strap in the front of the car and lock your purse in. Also, limit how much you are carrying. If you do not need a certain card or electronic for your trip, do not bring it.

However, we are all guilty of getting a little too distracted.

If you find that someone is already approaching you, owner and manager of Norfolk Karate Academy, Bill Odom, says it is important to manage the distance in order to manage the damage.

He recommends telling someone to "Stop" or "Backup" if you feel uncomfortable. He says that if the person does not listen, then it is clear they do not have good intentions.

The best advice -- if someone goes after your purse, do not be a superhero, be a great witness.

"Look, see where they go, see what they get into, see what they are wearing," says Detective Linville. It will keep you safe and give you the best chance of getting your valuables back.