Spike seen in cellphone thefts on Metro lines

Your phone has the ability to track your health behaviors -- it knows how much you walk each day and other behavioral patterns. And it can share this information with your doctor. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Metro passengers may want to limit their cellphone use after new data shows an increasing number of crooks lurking the trains waiting to steal phones.

According to recently released statistics, there was a spike in 2013, and the trend was evident across the system.

“[Thieves] time it perfectly and wait for the doors to open or close,” says Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik.

In 2012 there were approximately 350 incidents of cellphones being stolen across the Metro system. Last year, that number was around 550, a spike of nearly 60 percent.

“It’s challenging,” Pavlik says. “But it’s something we’re going to tackle.”

As smartphone technology has gotten more advanced, the devices have become more appealing targets.

“The average person who steals it has no intention of activating it as a cellphone again. It still is a very valuable piece of equipment,” explains Pavlik.

Police are redirecting resources and working to address the growing problem. Meanwhile, passengers are being urged to take some small steps, including keeping phones out of sight while on trains or at least limiting use.

Nearly all victims have been younger than 25 years old and most are female, but the crime can happen to anyone as long as thieves feels they have an opportunity.

“Be aware of what’s going on around you,” Pavlik says.

Below is a breakdown of the thefts that occurred in calendar year 2012 and calendar year 2013.

CALDENDAR YEAR 2013 CALENDAR YEAR 2012
Total theft snatches 640 cases 490 cases
Theft snatch cases involve personal electronic devices 94 percent (603 cases) 87 percent (424 cases)
iPhones 71 percent 60 percent
Cellphones 20 percent 23 percent
Tablets 8 percent 12 percent
iPods less than 1 percent 2 percent
Thefts of handbags, walletts, money, clothing 37 cases 66 cases
     
Male suspects 93 percent 94 percent
Suspects younger than 25 years old 98 percent 96 percent
Suspects who acted alone 76 percent 84 percent
     
Victims 69 percent women 50/50 for men and women

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