MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Imagine walking down a street. A car drives by, snatches your purse and drags you several feet. This happened just weeks ago in Myrtle Beach. Purse snatchings and robberies by force are a growing problem during the summer months and it happens more often than you think.
It happens when you least expect it. You're walking through a parking lot or down a street and within seconds the assailant comes out of nowhere. Victims are sometimes dragged, punched, kicked. Anything to get your cash.
Crystal Webb is the owner of Bulldog Defense, a group that helps women and men learn how to avoid becoming victims of any crime.
"Everybody has this mentality that, 'it's not going to happen to me' or 'I'm in a nice neighborhood'. Those days are gone," emphasized Webb. "Everybody needs to realize that no matter what type of area you live in or where you're at, this can happen."
Webb understands first hand that any traumatic crime leaves victims with scars below and above the surface.
"Anytime I look in the mirror, I see a scar where I took 19 stitches in my forehead and this guy was never arrested. Total stranger," recalls Webb.
Annie Varner learned her lesson the hard way after her purse was stolen last year.
"We found my wallet in a trash can about two blocks over," she says.
Varner admits, after having something like this happen to you, it changes the way you think.
"You have to have your guard up because people will hurt you over your money or whatever you have," says Varner.
So WMBF News wanted to see how often this is happening and where. Pouring through police reports, the numbers explode during the summer with 15 attacks in June and eight in July. A total of 45 attacks since January.
There are pockets all over Myrtle Beach. One cluster, between 12th Avenue South to 18th Avenue South, and then six attacks happened within the six blocks of 1st Avenue South to 5th Avenue North.
And on the north end, numerous attacks were reported on 9th Avenue North, 17th Avenue North, Dunbar Street and Broadway at the Beach.
The reports also show it's not just women, a surprising number of the victims are men.
Webb says, "They're looking for an easy target and criminals know how to pick out easy targets."
An overwhelming majority of these attacks were at night when someone was walking alone or in small numbers. The victims were usually approached from behind, and if force was used, they were hit on the back of the head.
As we all know purse snatchings and robberies are crimes of opportunity, so following certain rules could keep you from becoming a victim.
"A lot of times, if you make eye contact with somebody that is approaching you, they will not attack you. Most attacks are snatch and grabs. They don't want to be seen and it happens so quick, they can't describe their attacker to police," says Webb.
- When it comes to staying safe, here are some rules to live by:
- Walk in well lit, busy areas.
- Steer clear of vacant parking lots, garages and streets. Especially at night.
- Avoid headphones so you can hear if someone is behind you.
- Hold your purse tight to your body and if you're walking, keep your purse on the shoulder furthest from the street.
And, as Webb has learned, it takes one split second for your world to be turned upside down.
"Just be alert. Be aware, because there's people out there right now just looking for a victim," she warns.
Also keep this in mind the next time you're out. There are dozens of police reports of stolen purses at local bars, nightclubs and even while you're playing in the sand. Time and time again, folks will leave their bag for a short period of time, come back and it's gone.
Most of the time victims never get their wallet or belongings back. So on top of dealing with this extremely traumatic experience, you're forced with the headache of canceling all of your cards, notifying your bank and making sure your attacker hasn't stolen your identity.
The WMBFNews.com crime page has several tips for keeping you and your family safe.