Palm Springs purse-snatchings put people on alert

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Go anywhere in downtown Palm Springs this time of year and you can expect to see lots of people eating outside.  Restaurants often pack their patios because of the desert's warm winter temperatures.  "We're from Canada so eating outside at this time of year... you don't do," said Bernice MacIntosh, who is visiting from Canada. "So, it's beautiful to just enjoy the nice weather and scenery." 

On many of those patios, you can find purses on the ground and hanging on the back of chairs.  It's what at least one thief decided to take advantage of this week.  "I just heard, 'Oh, he took my purse," and then we just saw a guy running," said Octavio Rivas, a host at Zin American Bistro.  "And her husband tried to stop him, but it was too late." 

Palm Springs police say the same thief struck again next door at Lulu California Bistro.  This time, a good samaritan stopped him.  Police arrested 18-year-old Sebastian Sheard for allegedly stealing the purses.  Still, it's making some women uneasy when dining out.  "You know, it's sad that you just can't have a meal without looking around you," said Amber Pillay.  "And not knowing when your purse is going to get stolen." 

Police don't believe anyone else is connected to the purse snatchings, but Rivas thinks differently.  He says another man walked suspiciously by the restaurant three or four times before the theft.  That's why he's warning customers now. "As soon as I see a lady, they put the purse over the chair, I'm like ma'am, please I would suggest to hold your purse," said Rivas. 

Palm Springs police tells everyone to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity. One woman offers this advice to protect your purse.  "I keep it around my knee or sometimes I just step on it, put it on the inside, anywhere where you can see it or feel it." 

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