Late night theft in Signal Hill serves as reminder to stay alert, be prepared

By Joseph Serna, Staff Writer

As she described it, it was like a ghost popped out of nowhere.
When Emma Harmon walked up to her front door last Wednesday night, past the burnt out street lights to the front door with no porch light on, a man dressed all in black silently approached her from the bushes.
In an instant, he grabbed her shoulder, ripped her purse from her arm and ran down the street from her house on the corner of 20th Street and Dawson Avenue in Signal Hill.
Wearing sandals, Harmon gave chase, yelling for help and shouting “Fire!” as so many in law enforcement encourage someone to do when in trouble.
The assailant ran past an out-of-place black Chevrolet Monte Carlo and past a young neighbor, who also gave chase to the purse-snatcher.
As the man jumped an alley wall, the neighbor was able to get a hold of the purse and returned it to Harmon, who was obviously shaken.
Harmon said the Monte Carlo soon left the area, but was seen cruising through the neighborhood minutes after, “probably looking for his friend,” she said.
Signal Hill Sgt. Michael Reid said there are no reports of repeated thefts in the area and while what happened to Harmon is unique, there are things people can learn from it.
Signal Hill police offered these tips to stay safe:
• Be alert to your surroundings and be aware of the people around you.
• If arriving to or leaving home, be sure to check the porch and the surrounding area for people standing, approaching or walking.
• Whenever possible, travel with a friend.
• Stay in well-lighted areas as much as possible.
• Walk confidently and at a steady pace.
• Make eye contact with people who start to approach you.
• If carrying a purse, hold it securely between your arms and on your body.
• Do not respond to conversation from strangers on the street, continue walking.
• Avoid walking near bushes, alleys and doorways where someone could hide.
• Have your car keys or house keys in your hand so you don’t have to linger before you enter your car or home.
For information about crime prevention and crime prevention material, go online to or write the California Attorney General’s Office at P.O. Box 94255 in Sacramento, CA 94244.
Residents with questions or concerns can call the Signal Hill Police Department at (562) 989-7200 or go online to