JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A woman's frightening encounter with a would-be thief has the community on high alert, after police told Channel 4 the man tried to steal a purse off a woman in a grocery store parking lot.
"You are your best protector, and the way you protect yourself is you've got to out-think these people. You've got to think ahead of them," said Channel 4's crime analyst Ken Jefferson.
Toni Simmons was loading groceries in her car at Rowe's Supermarket on Blanding Blvd when investigators said a man jumped out of a Sports Utility Vehicle and tried to take off with her purse. Simmons was able to fight off the robber, Corey Bowman, who was caught by police a short time later.
The attack has many on high alert and worrying about what Simmons could have done to prevent the situation.
Jefferson has some ideas of what people can do to make their next shopping experience more secure.
"Men can be targeted just like women, however women are a better target simply because they carry more things. They carry in bulk, like large purses," said Jefferson.
Jefferson took the Channel 4 crew to shopping store parking lots to show the most common mistakes people make out in public, mistakes that make them easy targets for crooks.
In one parking lot, we watched as a woman left her purse in her grocery cart and turned her back on it as she loaded her car.
"You became very vulnerable when you were putting your groceries in there by leaving it all alone," Jefferson told the woman.
When Jefferson confronted the woman about the mistake she had made, she admitted that she didn't realize how unsafe she was being. Jefferson reminded the shopper that when her hands are full and she has to keep her bag in her cart, simply loop the safety strap on the cart to your purse. That way it becomes harder for a thief to steal it.
"Once it's pointed out, you realize you should've have done it differently," said Jefferson.
While it was easy to find shoppers who weren't paying attention and making themselves a target, there were also some very smart shoppers, too.
"She has her package in her left hand. She has her right hand free, which is for her keys, so she can get into her car in the parking lot. She has her purse across her body, directly in front of her where she can monitor everything going on," said Jefferson.