Stacey Margaret Jones: Bless Their Thieving Little Hearts – They Robbed the Cashless Wonder

“Yeah, thieves see a woman get out of a car and ride away on her bike, they know there’s a purse in there and that she’s going to be gone for hours.” – Big Dam Bridge passerby.


As running weather turned to cycling weather, I pleasantly anticipated reducing my foot miles and increasing my rolling distances, until I was robbed of that pleasure.

And I mean literally robbed as well as figuratively.

On my third cycling outing of the year, the rear side window of my car was smashed and my purse was stolen from where I had hidden it in a jacket under the seat. When I returned to my car parked at the Big Dam Bridge parking lot in Little Rock after a gorgeous ride, I found broken glass everywhere and my lovely lime-sherbet-green leather Coach purse and matching wallet nowhere.

What happened: I arrived at the river on a weekday afternoon with my bike on my sedan rack. I don’t have easy access to the trunk of my car with the rack there. Normally, I hide my purse under things in the back seat while I am still inside the car, but that day I forgot. Once I was out of the car, getting everything ready, taking my bike down, getting my bike shoes on, etc., I saw my bag on the floor of the passenger seat and carried it around to the back outside the car.

Whilst doing this, I thought, “This is pretty unsafe. I’m basically advertising that my purse is here to anyone watching.” (This was an instinct I should have listened to. Clearly.) I pushed it completely under the passenger seat and then covered it with a coat. Lest you think that the bag hidden this way would be obvious to any passing-by, would-be thief doing recon, let me assure you that my back seat was, as usual, full of stuff, including multiple jackets, umbrellas, books, magazines, grocery bags and a giant Hefty bag of clothes for Goodwill. There was nothing obvious about where my purse was stowed.

I rode less than two hours, passing by my car twice. I didn’t go to the car, so I wouldn’t have noticed anything, but what I did see each time was a nearly full parking lot, walkers, cyclists, parents with strollers and dogs with their people.

After the last time I passed my car, I got about a mile away when I decided I was tired after riding more than 23 miles. It was very windy and the temperature was climbing as the clouds cleared so I abandoned my plan to ride 5 to 7 more miles. I returned then to find the window violated and my purse gone. Nothing else was taken, or even touched. A checkbook that had escaped the marauders was still under the seat where it had fallen. From what I can tell from people who were parked near me, the smash-and-grab did not occur until about 10 to 20 minutes before I returned for good.

I immediately called my husband to ask him to call my bank while I called the police and my credit card company. He did so. I did so. Within 10 minutes our accounts were locked down. And no charge ever came through from the thieves. I almost never carry cash, so what was stolen was my purse and wallet (my only matching set! No more will I feel the sophistication of someone whose purse and wallet actually go together), some deodorant, old hotel key-cards from a recent trip to Kalamazoo, my favorite lip stick and powder, two super-cute pairs of Target sunglasses, a packet of Chomps and about 80 pens (I’m a writer). Oh, and an estimated $2.67 in change for parking meters.

It could have been much worse if I weren’t the Amazing Cashless Wonder or if I didn’t take my phone and keys absolutely everywhere with me.

Here is who I do not blame for the theft:

  • Myself: Yes, people have told me that the Big Dam Bridge is a hot spot for this kind of crime, though I will say that NOT ONE PERSON said this to me before I posted on my Facebook page that I had been robbed there. They have also told me not to leave my purse in the car, but rather put it in the trunk, though I had been hiding it in the car for more than five years with no problem. The officer told me that hiding it the way I did was a “reasonable precaution.”
  • Big Dam Bridge officialdom: The powers that be at the bridge – the city, city parks, etc. – take reasonable precautions themselves to reduce crime. Those signs about surveillance cameras aren’t just signs: The detective who called me the next day said they were going through footage from the video. The area is open and cleared of brush and cover for skulkers to hide.
  • Little Rock law enforcement: I often see police patrolling in the area, and when I made my plaintive call about the car break-in, an officer was with me within 25 minutes. He was thorough, taking my report, talking to witnesses who helped to put a time on the theft, and dusting for fingerprints.

Here is who I blame:

  • The thief: I believe this person was watching me when I hid my purse, because he or she knew which window to break and rifled nothing in the car, moving only the jacket that covered the hidden handbag. This person must have waited more than 90 minutes for his or her chance to smash the window and take the bag. It’s this individual’s fault that I had to replace my car window, close my checking accounts, order a new credit card, get a new driver’s license, get a new student ID, and lose sleep at night wondering if someone is breaking into our house.

How I Will Change My Ways:

  • Purses: I will not leave a purse in a car again. If I’m driving anywhere to ride or run, I will take with me only what I can carry on my person.
  • Messiness: I will keep my car cleaned out so thieves can see there is no purse inside to get (I hope they don’t pry open my trunk just to look in vain there, as well!)

And that is all I will change.

I will not quit making the most of the beautiful bridges, paths and parks the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock have created for running and riding.  So, I’ll still see you up and down the trail. I may be a little slower because I’ll be weighed down with my driver’s license and my lip balm, since I don’t dare leave them in my car.

Stacey Margaret Jones, M.S., APR, (@sharkushka) is a market research consultant and a member of the inaugural class of the Arkansas Writers MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas. She lives in Conway with her Chaucerian husband. Jones, a South Dakota native, does not play team sports, unless you consider cocktailing a competitive event.

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