After living in NYC for 2 years, it finally happened. I was the victim of a crime.
When people ask me if NYC is safe, I usually yes, as much as a big city can be safe. And this is true, crime per capita here is much lower than it used to be and compared to other cities in the US. Only a few times have I ever felt unsafe while walking around or traveling around the city. I have experienced many times that people could have taken advantage of me, like when I have dropped something or left a phone out in the open, and they have always been kind enough to help instead of causing harm. In 2 years living here and being safe, it is easy to let your guard down and think it is safer than it is.
Last week, I saw a post on a neighborhood Facebook group about a guy being followed at 1 in the morning along a busy street in our neighborhood by a guy who he thinks was going to rob him. Granted, he didn’t get robbed and he could have been wrong, but when the guy said to him “Whats the matter? I am not going to rob you”, paces out front of the convenience store he went in to get away waiting for him, and walks past him and turns around to come back towards him, it makes you wonder. There were SO many comments on that post where people said the same thing had happened to them or they actually were assaulted or robbed, including one where a man said his wife was robbed at knifepoint on a street block not far from us. It definitely made me stop and reevaluate what I do (walking long stretches later at night instead of taking a bus along that same route, wearing headphones at night so I don’t hear people coming up behind me, etc.) and realize that while our neighborhood is relatively safe, crime does happen.
Then, a few days ago at a team social, the other mom on the team was mentioning to me that she was in a clothing store last week with her daughter and a cop was going around passing out flyers warning people, especially moms, to watch their bags because things were being stolen. My defenses went up even more.
Yesterday, on Emerson’s birthday, Ed was off so I went to pick the two big girls up from school and take them to Michael’s craft store (where they had been begging to go) just the three of us. We drove there and when we got to the store, I had my purse over my shoulder and we entered the store. I carried the purse on my shoulder most of the time, but towards the end, I put it in the cart and made sure to never walk away from the cart if I or the girls weren’t right there (I grew up with a mom who always had one hand on her purse when it was in the cart because she was scared of getting it stolen so this was drilled into me). When I got to the checkout a little bit later, I reached in my purse for my wallet and it wasn’t there. I know I had put it in there right before I left for Michaels, but I called Ed asking him to look around the house thinking maybe I had momma brain and totally forgot to put it in. I went outside to the car to double check for it and then came back into Michaels to retrace my steps and ask if someone had turned one in. Then, I headed home to look some more and so Ed could come back and buy the stuff that was on hold.
As soon as I got to the house and walked in, I started getting calls for credit card companies asking if I was trying to make a purchase for $727 at a Foot Locker store near us. Uh yeah, thats not me. At first, I thought maybe it was just a coincidence and that credit card may have had its number comprised online or somewhere else. But, then another card started calling, and another, and it became obvious someone had stolen my wallet. Ed and I both frantically started canceling cards but before we could cancel our debit card, they made the purchase and took our money. We will get the money back from the bank but it will take time and lots of hassle.
Besides the feeling of being violated and taken advantage of, is that it is all a huge, huge hassle. I had so much in my wallet for our family, a VISA gift card with money on it, about $80 in cash that was part of our grocery budget that I am now out, driver’s license, membership cards, health insurance cards, and so on. And not to mention that I had my favorite Thirty-One wallet which is not cheap and which I LOVED! And all of it on Emerson’s birthday. So, we called the police, they came and took a report, and they even went to look at video footage at Michaels. I was really impressed with all they were doing to try to find these people (which they thought were professional given how fast it all happened) and even today, I had a detective call asking questions and going to review the footage. I think it really helps that I have a very clear, small timeline of when it all happened. Apparently, it is happening a lot around here to moms (because they are distracted with kids which I totally was) and is even ramping up because of the holiday season. The crazy part was that the police officer who came to our house was the same one that handed out flyers to my friend in Kohls.
It has been such a hassle (like my bank today almost not giving me a new debit card even though I answered every security question correct just because I had no kind of photo ID – hello! It was stolen!) but I learned some very, very valuable lessons today. Always carry a crossbody bag or a bag that is zipped up (in anger last night I threw away every bag I have that isn’t crossbody) and keep it on you at all times, be more aware of what is happening around you, don’t hang purses on back of chairs at restaurants, and never assume it can’t happen to you. It was a great opportunity to talk to our kids about evil people, sin, theft hurting people, etc. and our kids loved that the police came to our house, and I have thankfully gone from wanting to punch the people who did this to being able to pray for them.
I don’t say this to scare people who come to NYC or any other big city, because crime can happen anywhere and like I said, by per capita standards, NYC is safe, but just as a reminder to be safe and vigilant. I know I will from now on.