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SCVNews.com | Watch for Cell Phone Snatchers While Riding Trains, Buses | 09-20-2012
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[LASD] – Metro and L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies are asking patrons to watch for the person in these photographs. On July 16 at approximately 11:10 p.m. this suspect was captured on video grabbing an Apple iPad from a Metro patron as she was riding the Blue Line. When the train arrived at the Compton Station, the suspect approached the victim from behind, grabbed her iPad from her hands and fled the train car and platform northbound on foot. Please call the LASD Transit Services Bureau (323) 563-5000 if you recognize this man. He is thought to be 17-19 years old with black hair and brown eyes, 5? 6? or 5? 7?, 140-150 pounds.

Aboard Metro buses and trains, thieves are snatching smart phones and other electronic devices at a growing rate and Metro officials and Los Angeles County Sheriffs are taking steps to stop it. But they need the public’s help in putting an end to these crimes of opportunity. Raising awareness is the first step.

“It’s a national trend. And we need to educate the public about how they can avoid being victims of this kind of crime,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Commander Patrick Jordan.

In L.A., as well as in New York, Washington D.C., Boston and Chicago, thieves are stealing cell phones and other electronic devices out of the hands of inattentive transit riders. Metro experienced a 47 percent increase in phone thefts during the first half of this year, compared with the first half of last year.

In looking at the thefts by month, they began to increase steadily in March of this year, with a low of 15 in February and a high of 34 in July. There have been 168 phone theft reports taken since the first of the year. The result has been 84 arrests.

And yet, the Metro system is safe and overall crime on Metro is stable. For every 100 million boardings in the first half of 2011, Metro had 250 crimes — the same number as for the first half of this year.

Phone and electronic device snatching is a crime of convenience and surprise is a key weapon of phone thieves. So Metro and the Sheriffs Department, which provides security on the Metro system, want passengers to be vigilant to avoid becoming victims.

Pay particular attention getting on and off trains and buses. That’s when thieves can quickly grab a phone and dash either onto or off of a departing train or bus. Stash phones and iPods away when arriving at or departing a station. It’s also a good idea to keep other valuables out of sight.

Be aware of your surroundings. Sit or stand in an area that remains visible to the public and other transit riders and employees. Make a mental note of where the emergency notification buttons are located in the stations and on trains.

Trains appear to be the preferred venues for cell phone thefts, perhaps because trains can hold more passengers and buses are manned by bus drivers whose presence may deter some thieves.

Cell phone grabs can occur at all times of day but happen most often between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and then spike again for about an hour after 9 p.m. Victims and perpetrators are both male and female.

Most of the attacks are not armed robberies but are grabs of surprise, with suspects taking phones from unaware passengers who may be talking on them at that moment.

Should you become a victim or witness a crime, try to note the train car number (posted on the outside of trains near the car corners and posted inside on the doors leading to train cars in front and in back), the time, the station and the line. Call LASD Transit Services Bureau immediately. There are video cameras on all trains and buses and train platforms. Working with photos captured from surveillance cameras, Sheriff’s deputies can search for robbery suspects. “We catch many of the suspects responsible,” Cmd..Jordan said.

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