Metro Transit Police Report 40 electronic device thefts in the last two weeks, urge riders to be vigilant

Photo by PoPville flickr user Collin David Anderson

From MTPD:

“Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik today advised the public of a recent increase in snatch thefts of electronic devices, such as iPhones, iPads, Kindles and Android phones, and urged riders to be vigilant while on the transit system.

There were 40 snatches of electronic devices on the Metro system in the two-week period ending August 7, 2013 – an increase of 48 percent from the previous two week period.

“We are not waiting to see if this becomes a trend,” said Chief Pavlik. “We are taking immediate, proactive steps to protect the riding public, but we also need riders to do their part.”

MTPD uses a crime trend analysis tool, called MetroStat, to analyze crime trends every 14 days and reallocate resources in response.

Metro is continuing to use “crime suppression” operations, where undercover officers place themselves in the path of crime using decoy devices. When a criminal steals the device, other officers apprehend the suspect and make an immediate arrest.

While the police are taking steps in response to the recent increase, Chief Pavlik noted that Metro passengers have an important role to play. “These are crimes of opportunity, and they are preventable,” he said. “The best advice is to keep your device out of sight, but if you do choose to use it, maintain constant awareness of what’s happening around you.”

At today’s news conference, Pavlik advised customers to treat their phone as if it were cash. “You wouldn’t go around flaunting this $300 in the open. And yet, that’s effectively what you’re doing when you’re not paying attention with your electronic device.”

Metro Transit Police have long urged riders to not use electronic devices near train doors, where most snatches occur. Many thieves time the snatch as the doors are closing, running through the closing doors onto the platform and leaving the victim aboard the train. More recently MTPD has cautioned against using electronic devices on escalators in response to several incidents where criminals have run up the escalator and snatched devices as they pass their victims.

In addition, riders are encouraged to set up tracking software for their device, such as Find My iPhone on Apple products, so that the device can be wiped, locked, and potentially found if it is stolen. MTPD officers have successfully tracked down several thieves this year using Find My iPhone tracking.

Chief Pavlik also put would-be criminals on notice that Metro’s recent investment in high-definition cameras is making it easier to identify and prosecute suspects. “Criminals should know that if you’re on Metro, chances are we’ve got you on camera.”

14 Comment

  • How can people, especially metro riders, not know about this by now? (Some woman being interviewed in a metro station by WAMU said she had never heard of this being a problem…WTF?) It happens all the time! When you are approaching a station, if you are looking at your smartphone, stop using it and put it down by your side or put it in your pocket. It’s not rocket science.

    • I thought the same thing this morning. Must be a new to town (or first time urban dweller).

    • Forget the metro, you don’t flash expensive shit in a city period.

    • Honestly, it blows my mind how overly paranoid commenters are on this site. Never wear headphones! Lock your phone in a safe at home and never use it! Give me a break. There is a difference between being “street smart” and ridiculously over cautious. Thousands of people use their phones on the metro every day and there is probably like one snatch and grab a day (over this high period there were on average under 3 per day). The odds of you being one of them is pretty low. It is just a matter of being in the wrong car at the wrong time, just like most muggings are a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So you can live your life in fear or just live your life.

      • “So you can live your life in fear or just live your life.” Surely there’s a middle ground — use your device, but apply some caution?

        • I think you are taking my last sentence a little to literally. Earlier in the post, I noted the difference between being street smart and overly cautious. Yeah, it is a smart idea to be aware of your surroundings, but living by a rule (as some of the earlier commenters suggested) that once on the metro, phone stays in pocket is an overreaction. This is similar to people who say you should never walk around listening to music on your headphones. I have lived here for 8 years, and I walk around with headphones probably 80% of the time and never have had a problem. I am willing to bet there are people out there who are insanely cautious and never take out their phones or wear headphones, but have still be mugged. It’s just a matter of bad luck in most cases. That was my point.

          • I grew up in the NYC area. A time-honored rule about subways is, “Never wear anything exposed that’s flashy and can be grabbed.” Part of the problem “may” be that iPhones render people unawarene of their environment. We see that in other factes of city life besides the Metro.

  • I agree with Anonymous @10:37. Of course, living in a city we should all be aware of our surroundings and on alert. However, I have a problem with feeling uncomfortable using my mobile in public. These are mobile devices for God’s sake, they are meant to be used wherever, whenever. I paid for it and I pay for the service and convenience of having access. I totally get the warning but shit – if I want to see when the next bus is coming I want to feel free to use my device. I don’t want to live in fear so I can’t take a call, check a website or check a schedule when I want to. That is the whole point to the technology, right? That being said, I am not going to yap on and on and not look around to see who is around me. We should be doing that whether using a device or not.

  • austindc

    Neat picture! I used to hang out with the black flag crowd until I realized they were kind of dumb. Mistaking fare dodging for rebellion is probably a handy example of that. Nice folks in general though.

  • Haven’t the phone companies already gotten together and agreed to completely brick stolen phones? Or is that STILL not in place? As soon as that happens surely these crimes will fall to zero-ish.

  • I actually saw a guy once who had sat his iPhone on the seat next to him right by a door and was talking to his friend looking away from the phone. On my way out of the car, I just tapped on his shoulder and said, “Excuse me, it looks like your phone fell out of your pocket” even though its pretty clear that isn’t what happened. It was pretty clear he was a summer intern of some sort. He was begging for it to be stolen.

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