The crime rate has gone down in New York--except if you are the person the crime is committed against. The one I was the victim of was not a white-collar crime, but a Gucci silk blouse crime.

I was in an upscale store the other day examining a camcorder. The man behind the counter pointed out its features and said if a person didn't own a camcorder, he would be considered no better than a cave man.

I was sold. I handed the man my credit card from my wallet. While I was waiting for him to write it up, a very attractive lady in a Gucci blouse came up to me and said she liked the sport coat I was wearing. In return for the compliment, I told her she had a lovely blouse. I thought the lady could easily have been in town from Greenwich or Southampton.

After exchanging compliments with me, she disappeared. Only moments later, I realized my wallet was gone. It contained everything I cherish in life. It had my driver's license, my credit cards, theater tickets, my medical identification and receipts from taxi rides I had taken for business.

I felt all the violent emotions one has when one is ripped off--disbelief, anguish and betrayal. I almost called 911. This lovely lady, who could have been president of her garden club or chairwoman of the Junior League, was a pickpocket preying on men in sport jackets who want nothing more in life than to be part of a new electronic world order. We who live on the edge of the computer age are not used to being duped by ex-debutantes.

When I told my story to friends, they revealed to me that in the newspaper a few weeks ago it was reported that a ring of well-dressed women was working the better stores in New York.

They are well-trained. It took only seconds for my Gucci blouse friend to make the snatch.

When one is robbed, one has a fantasy concerning it. Mine is that I catch the thief in the act, and instead of calling the police, I take her for a cup of coffee. There she tells me her story. She was once married to a wealthy investment banker, who left her for the vice president of his company. She moved to Yonkers, but she couldn't afford Yonkers, so she wound up in this type of work. I take her to St. Patrick's Cathedral and turn her in to the cardinal.

What is the moral of this story? Crime is still rampant in New York City. Women dressed to kill are now roaming the city's stores. I learned my lesson from all this. I vow I will never talk to an upscale lady in an upscale store in New York again.

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate