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A safety pin locks a purse closed

A safety pin lock prevents casual theft.

We’ve all heard the stories – pickpockets, slashed purses, petty theft.  Unfortunately, it is a normal part of travel.  How does a woman protect against such things, especially when carrying only one bag?  I tried a Pacsafe purse.  I found out that I didn’t use it.  Oh, it worked fine.  But it was quite heavy, didn’t hold much (for the weight) and didn’t pack well inside my main bag. It screamed “I have something valuable inside of me!” and marked me as a tourist.  On top of that, the thing was ugly.  I ended up abandoning it for a regular cross body bag.  Did that leave me exposed to casual theft?  Not as much as you might think.  You see, a few years ago a missionary friend of mine gave me the answer to the theft problem.  He called it the “rule of 3”.

S-Biner Purse Lock

A small “size 0” s-biner will clip the zipper slide to the purse hardware. This is a very discrete way of securing your purse.

The “rule of 3” is based on how casual thieves operate.  Thieves are opportunistic.  They want to act quickly.  Anything that slows them down increases the chance that they will get caught.  So anything you can do to slow them down makes them nervous.   Slow them down enough and they will get scared and abandon you for an easier target.  How do you slow a thief down?  By making it hard to get to your valuables.  Most thieves have 2 hands.  That means that they can perform 2 coordinated tasks quickly, such as unzipping a purse and grabbing a wallet.  Most thieves aren’t coordinated enough to get past 3 steps.  So I always make sure that it takes at least 3 steps to get to my stuff.

A small pocket inside a larger purse is a safer place to store the working wallet

A small pocket inside a larger purse is a safer place to store the working wallet,

The first step is to lock my purse.  This can be as easy as pinning the zipper slide closed (step 1).  If I want to open my purse, it isn’t a big deal to open the safety pin.   If you want something a little nicer, consider using a small s-biner (size 0 works well).  Next, I always make sure my purses have an inner side pocket.  That is where I store my working wallet (step 2).  If someone were to slash my purse they will probably miss the wallet that is suspended in the side pocket.  As a bonus, the wallet is easy to find within the yawning void of my purse.  Last, I will zip the inner purse pocket closed (step 3).  Wearing the purse as a cross-body bag in front of me creates additional security (step 4).

A safety pin makes it difficult for theives.

A safety pin secures a pocket closed.

I will do the same thing if I have my wallet in my pocket.  I like to buy travel pants that have security pockets inside the normal pockets (step 1).  These pockets zip up (step 2).  Again, I’ll run a safety pin through the zipper to “lock” it (step 3).  Many times I will also pull my shirt over the top of the pocket (step 4).

So does it work?  Well, I’ve found one slash mark on my purse – but the purse was so soft that they couldn’t cut into it.  I’ve also found several unclipped s-biners and open (or missing) safety pins.  In one case the zipper was actually open by a few inches – so one thief made it half-way through step 2.  But so far, the thieves have yet to make it past the other steps.  And that is exactly how I like it.