Montrose purse snatchings catch residents off guard

July 25 was supposed to be a typical day for one 82-year-old woman shopping in Montrose. She parked her car in the 2400 block of Honolulu Avenue. She put her keys in her pocket. Then, she felt her shoulder jerk along with her purse.

"I can still feel his hand on my shoulder," recalled the Whiting Woods resident, who asked to remain anonymous. "When I turned around to see him run away, he was just as quiet as it was when I got into the parking lot."

Everything she owned was now with a stranger. Her driver's license, Medicare card and national park pass. Now, she doesn't carry a purse. She keeps the cards she needs in her pocket.

Three days later, a 93-year-old woman said a man snatched her purse while in a driveway on Malafia Drive, Glendale Police reported. The second incident occurred about a mile away from the shopping park.

"I've parked there many, many times before," she said.

Members of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. — some of whom were jarred by the incidents — and the police are on alert.

Andre Ordubegian, a shopping association board member, said the topic of safety came up at the organization's August meeting, and members and police plan to discuss how to keep security tight in the shopping park in the future, from increased bike and foot patrols to more volunteers at the police substation on Ocean View Boulevard.

"We're working to make Montrose a destination and security is a part of it," Ordubegian said. "We want to keep it like this. Safe. Always."

Over the years, safety has been part of the appeal of not just Glendale but its northern communities. Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ranked Glendale the fifth safest city in the state based on 2012 crime statistics.

Tom Lorenz, city spokesman, credits the low-crime rate to the strong partnership between the community and police.

Others haven't been deterred by the purse snatchings. Tina Wince, 58, works at Quilt'n' Things, located in the same area as the July 25 incident. Wince commutes to work from Crenshaw, where she hears one or two shootings each week or the sounds of helicopters whirring above her home.

She doesn't treat her home similarly to the Montrose shop, where she keeps the front and back doors open during business hours.

"I have bars on my windows where I live. I'm so used to crime" Wince said. "The purse snatching felt unusual for this area… but Montrose is safe."

Los Angeles Police Department Foothill officers arrested on Monday 26-year-old Glenn Frederick Phillips, who faces two charges of robbery stemming from both July incidents. Officers arrested Phillips after he matched the description of a man who allegedly robbed an elderly woman in the 8500 block of Day Street, according to the Glendale police.

Police booked Phillips into the LAPD Valley Jail under a $201,218 bond.

The 82-year-old woman took a deep breath over the phone after learning of the arrest Wednesday. Despite the arrest, she said she's not ready to visit the shopping park yet because of the memory of the incident is too fresh.

"I know that will ease," she said.

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