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Chinatown, North Beach purse thefts are up, police say

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Purse-snatching robberies appear to be on the upswing in the Chinatown and North Beach areas, with older Asian women making up the majority of the victims.

The Central Police Station issued a warning to residents after a man grabbed a 69-year-old woman’s purse in broad daylight Saturday, knocking her down and injuring her wrist. The robbery happened at 3 p.m. on Wayne Alley near Washington Street.

"We have trouble making IDs. A lot of that has to do with it happening so quickly. They come up behind, snatch the purse and all they can see is the back of the suspect," Robbery Inspector Robert Lynch said Thursday. "Asian females seem to be overly represented in the victim category."

Lynch said older people are especially vulnerable because crooks see them as easy targets, and that older victims run a greater risk of serious injury if knocked over. "It seems to have picked up recently. I can only go by the reports that come across my desk," he said. "What are they getting, $40? $100? They’re putting people’s lives in jeopardy because they knock people down."

Lynch said victims can lower their risk of harm and the loss of property by not carrying a purse, or if they have to carry a purse, keeping valuables out of it and not strapping it over their shoulder.

"Carry it loosely in your hand so that if someone swipes it you can just let them have it. It’s not worth getting injured over," he said.

Lynch said enforcement is "tough because you have to be in the right place at the right time." But officers from Central Station are cracking down, increasing patrols and working in plain clothes, he said.

amartin@examiner.com