Purse snatching e-mail hoax in Center City

May 29, 2008 3:49:20 PM PDT
Police thought they had a sticky fingered thief stealing from unsuspecting women in Center City, but it turned out to be a hoax.Some women have been clutching their purses a little tighter in Center City. During the last few days, thousands of people may have received emails on their office computers warning of a purse-snatcher on a bike.

"I received an email at my place of employment about purse snatchings on Market and Chestnut Streets," Kay Connelly of Mayfair said.

"Something about a man being on a bike and five women getting their purses snatched," Nicole Diallo of West Philadelphia said.

Police got calls from major Center City businesses inquiring about the purse snatching reports.

The 9th district captain showed Action News e-mails people received about the pocketbook thefts on Friday, Tuesday, yesterday and today.

Each said police reported five women had been victimized that day.

The e-mail alerts cited 17th and Market, 18th and Market, and 19th and Chestnut as the crime locations.

Police think it's bogus because they found no reports of purse snatchings in Center City, just a cell phone stolen by someone on a bike in another district.

"We did try to get out a mass e-mail to all the businesses in the 9th to let them know it is a hoax, because there is fear right now about the purse snatchings," Captain Dennis Wilson of the Philadelphia Police Department said.

Investigators don't think the email chain is malicious; they are not sure if it's part of an intentional hoax or the result of a rumored report gone exponentially wild via internet email.

Despite the false alarm, police urge people to continue to be careful and many businesses have issued memos to their employees letting them know the e-mails were bogus.