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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
The bags designed not to be snatched
The bodysafe belt can fit keys, cards and a phone

Could a bag or belt that deters muggers be a way to tackle rising street crime? We road test a new range of accessories designed to protect their owners.
Ever felt unwelcome eyes on your bag, your laptop, or your mobile phone?

With street crime up more than a third last year, chances are that someone is indeed on the look-out for a bag to snatch or a phone to filch.

The bodysafe looks like an item of saucy lingerie
Such crimes tend to be opportunistic. So one way to keep yourself safe is to make it harder for thieves to snatch and grab your valuables.

To this end, the Design Council has commissioned a streetwear company, Vexed Generation, to come up with a range of accessories that deter pickpockets, bag snatchers and phone thieves.

The designers worked with police and self-defence experts to develop the Karrysafe collection which includes a wristband for concealing mobiles, a lingerie-style money belt and a laptop bag fitted with an alarm.

Talk this way

The mobile holder, known as a phonesafe, is made from a lightweight gauze which allows the user to see - and use - the phone through the fabric.

Phonesafe wristband
Talk this way, with a mobile in a wristband
Instead of taking the phone out of the stretch pocket, just dial on your arm and lift your wrist to your ear.

Given the fashion for exposed midriffs, the moneybelt is designed to be worn riding above hipsters, with a mobile, credit card and key safe but still visible in the gauze compartments. But if modesty or cold weather dictates a cover-up, the belt is slimline enough to be worn under clothes.

As the bodysafe looks rather like a piece of saucy underwear - indeed the fastenings are identical to bra hooks - it attracts the attention of a pair of passing builders.

Model using phonesafe and wearing laptop bag
Attention grabber: Laptop bag with 138 decibel alarm
"Rrrrrr! I'd like to get the missus one of those," says Dave, who initially mistakes it for an item to be worn around the upper thigh.

Pete, who is perhaps rather more taken with the leggy model demonstrating the range, says that although he might buy a secure handbag for his wife, he wouldn't carry one himself: "I'm not too keen on the colour - it's very red."

For others not keen on such a bright colour, the range also comes in black (yes, it's back next season) and grey. But be prepared to shell out a few readies - the cheapest item, the phonesafe, costs almost 15.

Foil the bag thieves

Each of the Karrysafe bags - handbag, backpack, record bag and laptop bag - are designed to foil the thieves' favoured methods of stealing bags and their contents.

Thieves' methods
Take items from bag, often after distracting owner
Cut open bag, dip inside or catch items
Snatch and go
Grab unattended bag
To deter those who try to take items from bags, the backpack and handbag have scrolling Velcro-fastened tops. Not only do these require some effort to open - meaning a would-be thief needs to use both hands - the sound of Velcro ripping is sure to alert the owner that something's up.

The bags also have a slash-resistant lining, a tip picked up from the streets of New York.

Rolltop handbag
Velcro alert: The noise would warn the owner
Those who want to customise their existing bags can copy this feature by adding a chicken wire lining. (For more hints on how to protect your bag, click on the Karrysafe website in the internet links on the right).

Each also features either a strap or coil fitted with a combination lock so the owner can fix the bag to a luggage rack or bar stool, for instance, while out and about.

With a bag this secure, not only the thieves but the owners themselves could struggle to get inside.

Do you have any tips to deter muggers? Send us your comments using the form below.

Programme numbers for reporting cards stolen into your phone so you can cancel them instantly. Always try to carry your phone separately so at least you can use it to cancel cards and report the robbery.
Rachel, Edinburgh

As an ex-tour director, I learned to wear my bag either across one shoulder to opposite hip (worn front, never back) or clenched under my arm. If you are not ostentatious in what you carry, and look conscious and cautious about your belongings, in most cases a thief will pass you over. But the best deterrent is to try to avoid situations where it could happen.
Liz, UK

Smile and wave at a space behind anyone who looks suspicious.
Anna de Maeyer, England

I carry my nifty Digital IXUS/iPod and iBook in an ordinary carrier bag with a folded copy of the Guardian to hide the lumps and bumps. No-one even looks twice.
Dave Bancroft, UK

Carry valuables in a NETTO bag, guaranteed not to get mugged as so uncool to most people. I have transported 1,000s in this way to banks, as well as other valuable items.
D Ramsden, West Yorkshire, UK

I was talking on my mobile while walking down a busy street, when a guy on a bike snatched it. I chased him, but no-one came to my aid. Moral of story: stop to one side to answer calls and don't rely on others to help you.
S Cheung, UK

Carry valuables in a variety of places so that only one thing, not everything, is stolen.
Arturas Bakanauskas, Lithuania

Carry an old wallet with out-of-date cards and a 5 note. Keeps them happy and saves you a lot of pain.
V Duncker, UK

I live in Lima where street crime is an art form. I never take anything out with me if I'm walking - only an essential amount of cash deep in that tight front jeans pocket. I then carry an empty handbag as a decoy.
Alison, Peru

After catching a pickpocket's hands in my girlfriend's bag, I now stand a few inches behind her while walking so I can keep an eye on it (sadly he got away after punching me a few times - didn't get anything thou).
Paul Grimshaw, UK

If mugged do not resist. Make sure that the mugger will get away - remember the direction of escape and seek some more frequented place to call for help.
Christian A Hehn, Hanover, Germany

Wear a decoy bag they can easily grab and put valuables in another bag with a zip in the lining. Put your purse through the zip, between the outside fabric and its lining. If someone puts their hand in, they'll find nothing.
Asia Haleem, UK

I live in Brixton and never carry cash having been mugged so many times. I carry one credit card in my shoe.
Olly Smith, UK

So instead of just snatching a phone or bag, now muggers will tend towards using violence and weapons. How about coming down hard on the criminals instead?
M Pearson, England

I frequently travel on business and my advice is: keep valuables out of sight; carry expensive items in an old bag; don't wear expensive-looking clothes or jewellery; look as though you know where you are and where you are going; take local advice.
Keith, UK

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