Neighbour Hood Support

Reducing the risk of handbag, briefcase and laptop theft

Handbag, briefcase or laptop snatching doesn't often occur in New Zealand. However, if you leave these items unattended, they can be a popular target for thieves. Most thefts of this kind are committed by young men.

The following information outlines how you can reduce the risk of your handbag, briefcase or laptop being snatched. [Note, the example of a handbag is used throughout, but this advice applies equally to briefcases and laptops].

Out and about

Hold your handbag firmly at all times. Carry it so it can't be snatched from behind or grabbed by a person in a passing vehicle.

Be confident and aware of people around you. Keep away from isolated areas. Walk with a friend if you don't feel secure by yourself.

If you think someone is following or watching you and you feel uncomfortable, walk faster and head in a safe direction.

Only withdraw small amounts of money from a money machine. Stand where you can see people, hide your PIN number and put your money away promptly.

When using a public telephone, face the people passing to prevent a thief approaching unnoticed.

In a vehicle

Keep your car doors locked and your handbag out of sight. Handbags left on car seats can attract attention.

If possible, park where there are lots of people around. Take your handbag with you when you leave the car. If you can't, hide it out of sight.

Have your keys ready to quickly unlock the doors when returning to your car.


Supermarkets and shopping car parks can be target areas for handbag thieves.

Keep your handbag with you at all times. Never leave it unattended in the trolley while shopping or loading shopping into your car. Take your bag with you when you return your shopping trolley.

Public transport

Hold on to your handbag at all times. Don't put it on or under a seat, or in a luggage rack.

Be alert at all times at bus and ferry terminals, railway stations and airports, and don't leave your handbag unattended. Carry your handbag securely to prevent someone opening a zip or clasp and removing a purse.

At work

Keep your handbag where you can see it, locked in a safe place, or in a secure location.

Away from home

Leaving a handbag in a locked hotel or motel room doesn't guarantee security.

Put your valuables in a room safe if possible, or a safe at reception. If these aren't available, carry your valuables with you.

Keep windows secured, especially on the ground floor or accessible via a balcony.

Bars, restaurants and clubs

Never leave your handbag unattended. If you have to leave it, have someone you trust look after it.

In a public toilet put your handbag away from the door or on a hook. Thieves can reach under cubicle doors to snatch handbags.

Don't put your handbag anywhere you can't see it, such as under a seat. This also applies at other venues, such as concerts, sports events and cinemas.

At home

Follow basic safety rules when you are at home. 

Responding to theft

If you think someone is going to grab your handbag, act confidently. Talk loudly and assertively. Use words like 'go away', 'I'll call the Police'.

It's natural to want to protect your property. However, if your handbag is snatched and you resist, you could be injured during a struggle.

If your handbag is stolen:

  • Yell out 'stop thief!' or something similar, to attract attention. Activate a personal alarm if you carry one.
  • Contact Police immediately. It's useful if you can provide a description of the thief, the direction of travel and details of any vehicle used, particularly the registration number.
  • If your Eftpos or credit cards are stolen, notify the bank or credit card company as soon as possible. Never keep a written record of your PIN numbers with your cards or in your handbag.

You could receive a call from a person claiming to be from your bank, credit card company or Police, requesting your PIN Number. Don't give out your PIN number under any circumstances. These agencies would not contact you to ask for your PIN number.


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