SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - You stop to window shop. You open your purse to pay a cashier. You put down a package to pick up a crying toddler. At any of these moments, you could be a target for thieves on the prowl.
With the help of a Sandy Police sergeant and plenty of unwitting holiday shoppers, ABC 4 watched how criminals operate when they show up at a neighborhood shopping center looking for opportunity.
“Am I going to steal packages?” asks Sergeant Troy Arnold, explaining how the mind of a thief works. “Am I going to shoplift? Or am I going to try to pick up somebody's purse or wallet?"
Arnold is thinking, out loud, like a criminal. Odd as it may seem, he says everyone needs to learn to think like a criminal so would-be victims know how to stay our of the criminals’ reach.
“They're getting smarter. They're getting wiser," he says. "If you're walking out with a large group of packages and your arms are full, you are a target."
On his first attempt, Sergeant Arnold uses this reporter as a decoy. He points out a woman and her daughter, eating at the food court, and tells me to get their attention. I walk up to them and ask for the time. Just as they’re reaching for their cell phones, Sergeant Arnold breezes by and plucks the woman’s purse from the table.
“Did you see how quickly I was able to get your purse?” he says when he comes back. “And a guy my size - would you have been able to stop me had I been running?"
Without my assistance as his decoy, Sergeant Arnold grabs a purse from a table at the food court while the owner is ordering lunch.
“This is the time that people are out Christmas shopping at your expense," he tells the owner as he hands her the purse.
Then, in startlingly easy fashion, the sergeant lifts a purse from the counter of a store and walks out as the owner stands three feet away, helping her children pose for a holiday photo.
“Is this your folks' bag?” he asks as he returns it to the completely unaware woman and her husband standing inside the store. “Let me introduce myself. I'm sergeant Troy Arnold of the Sandy Police Department. I don't know if you noticed but I actually took your bag and walked completely out of the mall with it."
The two stared at him with surprised expressions on their faces.
Sergeant Arnold has a series of safety tips for holiday shoppers. They’re all laid out in an article he has written for the Sandy City Newsletter. You can go to this link and find all of them.