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Thursday, November 19, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

One morning of late, I came to work to find a lady's purse laying on the sidewalk in front of the building. There is a bar next door, and I presumed some woman had dropped it on the way to her car. I picked it up and took it inside, intending to look for a name and contact her to come get it.

The purse was empty, so I could not proceed with my original plan. A full purse with money in it is a lost-and-found situation, but an empty purse is probably evidence of a crime. The strap on the purse was torn, which could have been wear and tear, or perhaps the owner discarded a worn-out purse and it somehow landed here, but my guess is that this was the end of a trail that began where a crime happened (assault or purse snatching) and ended on my doorstep. I called the police, who sent a patrol car to pick it up. They did not tell me if there were some nearby crime and I did not ask. It wasn't any of my business to supervise the police. I gave them all of my information, as my fingerprints have been on file since I joined the military in 1971. If they check for fingerprints, mine can be easily excluded, although I joked with Leanna that I'd probably end up in jail for whatever happened to the poor lady.

On its own, an empty purse isn't much. It's not even proof that a crime actually happened. (Perhaps the worn-out purse was discarded honestly, and someone saw it in a dumpster and thought he had gotten away with something, only to find it empty and leave it on my doorstep by happenstance.) The purse was found with a lady's magazine, which makes me think that the purse was either dropped or stolen. (The purse was easily large enough to hold the magazine.) Combined with other information not known to me (but presumably known to the police) this may be important. Or maybe it's just a big waste of time.

The point is that in such cases, the proper thing to do is call the police. This may be nothing, but it may be something, and the only people who would know are the police. If a crime was committed, they already know where and when it happened, and knowing where the purse ended up (presuming that the speculative victim identifies the purse as hers) may at least tell the police which direction the mugger/thief went. Maybe CSI Amarillo can find the criminal's fingerprints on the bag? I don't know; it's not my business. But I did the responsible thing. I called the police, and (having disturbed the evidence) gave them enough information to eliminate any problems I caused and create a chain of custody.