Anna Frazzetto's Blog

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Losing My Purse & Gaining Respect in Vietnam

I travel the world a lot and clearly a concern is always my personal safety. I am a woman who travels alone in foreign countries, which at times can be intimidating, especially with countries often in a "state of alert" and the constant worries of terrorism.

I just recently got back from Vietnam, and I truly love the environment there. The people are great--warm and always eager to help. It's an extremely customer service-focused country and, as I learned firsthand, very keen on maintaining a safe, low-crime environment.

One rainy day I was out with one of my business partners. As I was crossing the street, my purse was snatched by two men on a motorbike. Of course, typical New Yorker, I started screaming and going after the motorbike. What was I thinking?

But unbeknownst to me, a gentleman on another motorbike heard the commotion and followed the purse snatchers. He called the cops as the perpetrators went into the store to try to sell what they had stolen. The cops arrived and arrested them.

Of course I didn't' know any of this as I walked sadly back to the hotel and reported the theft to the hotel. The hotel team insisted I call the cops and file a report, but I thought "Why bother? The purse is long gone, along with my credit cards, money and cell phone." I was experienced you see. I had my purse snatched in New York and could hardly hold the cops attention long enough to get them to file a report. I was hopeless.

Then, at 11:30pm that night, I got a call from the front desk and learned that my purse was found. How did the cops find me? My hotel key was in the purse along with plenty of ID so I was easy for the diligent Vietnamese police to find.

The next day I went to the police station with an interpreter to ensure I understood everything. I met the General of the station who explained what happened and then the policeman involved in the recovery of my belongings. They showed me my purse and everything was in my bag, including the money! I was beyond shocked. We itemized my belongings and we found that only my sugar-free Mentos were missing. The criminals must have had a sweet tooth. The amount of cash was short by $37.00, which meant that the families of the purse snatchers would have to come to court and give me the $37.00. Again shocked by the police and their determination to uphold justice, I asked them to change the paper work to reflect $37.00 less. That way we didn't have to drag the process out or have to have the families pay.

Again, to my great surprise, I was asked if I wanted to meet the criminals. I said no thank you but did ask what their punishment would be. The officer estimated that they would serve from three to five years, emphasizing that the only way to deter petty crime was serious punishment.

At the end of this experience, I asked the officer if we could take a picture--the process was so surreal and I had to be sure it happened. I e-mailed the photo to him later and he responded with kind words and wished me safe travels home.

I will be back to Vietnam often in the months and years ahead, and I can say with experience and confidence that I will be walking on some of the best policed streets I know.