South Surrey purse-snatch victim, 88, wants to warn others

Woman’s arm was yanked after her wheelchair was knocked by assailant.

A South Surrey senior who was the victim of a snatch-and-grab two weeks ago said the experience has left her feeling vulnerable while out and about in the community.

But the 88-year-old, who was in a wheelchair at the time she was victimized, said she has learned from the theft, and is taking steps to reduce the risk of being targeted again – steps she hopes other seniors will consider, for their own sake.

“I’m very concerned for other people,” she said. “There was a lady at the bank machine just before me and she was very, very frail. Someone like that, it’s going to be far more difficult if she is attacked.”

The senior, who asked not to be identified, said she had just entered an art-supply store in uptown White Rock around 1 p.m. Sept. 28 when the thief struck from behind, knocking into her power wheelchair before grabbing her purse and fleeing.

“I got inside that shop… and just as I was wondering why the door hadn’t closed behind me, I was pushed forward,” she said.

She is confident the culprit had seen her use a nearby ATM just prior and had followed her to the store.

“I knew that there was something, someone in blue jeans (behind me),” she said. “I managed to get just a look at this fellow as he ran with my purse under his arm.”

White Rock RCMP Sgt. Joel Glen said police have not arrested anyone in connection with the incident, but are investigating a possible connection between it and the arrest of a 43-year-old man the following day on an unrelated matter.

The senior was treated in hospital for injuries to her left arm, which remains sore. Her purse strap had been wrapped around her shoulder, wrist and elbow when the thief struck.

Carrying less – a smaller purse, less cash and fewer cards – while out and about is one of the things the senior said she is doing differently as a result of the theft.

She is also installing a personal-safety device near the hand controls of her wheelchair, and is making a point of knowing who is around her.

“As seniors, we’ve got to be aware of our surroundings,” she said, noting the advice applies to all seniors, not just those with mobility issues.

“If you’re concerned about someone, you look them in the eye,” she added. “Let them know you’re aware of them and your surroundings. They’ll probably think twice.”

Online personal-safety tips from the RCMP also encourage seniors to walk only in well-lit areas; shop in pairs or groups; and to walk in the centre of a sidewalk, away from doors and alleys.

While she is making changes, the South Surrey senior was quick to dispel any suggestion that the thief got the best of her or impacted her enjoyment of life.

“They will not do that to me,” she said.

However, “I’m going to do things so differently.”

 

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