Theft of smartphones increases on Hiawatha light-rail line

Over the last few months there has been a jump in the theft of smartphones on the Hiawatha light-rail line in Minneapolis. The increase in thefts has led transit officials to make new announcements on the light-rail line to warn passengers of the activity. The trend of smartphone theft began last month on the East Coast of the United States and has worked its way in to the center of the country.

Over the last month there have been 19 thefts of smartphones on the Hiawatha line and transportation officials say that number of smartphones thefts is what they normally would see over the course of four or five months. So far, no one has been seriously injured from the incidents; however, one person was hit before his or her phone was taken. The majority of the thefts on the light-rail line have occurred between the Metrodome and 46th Street stops. One underage assailant has been arrested.

More smartphone thefts have occurred on the light-rail line than on city buses, and there have been more thefts on the light-rail because it is easier to quickly jump off of the train than city buses.

Witnesses and those who have had their phones taken say the assailants stand next to passengers who are holding phones near the doors of the light-rail train cars. When the train stops, the assailant grabs the phone and runs off the train. One person who lost her phone on the train said, “They were trying to time it perfectly so they could make it out as the doors were closing. But I was able to slip through so I kind of chased them a little bit.” Police officers also tried to help the woman, but no one was able to catch up to the six younger people who allegedly stole the woman’s phone.

Police say people are after smartphones because they still have value even after service is cancelled. Some smartphones are only used before service is shutoff but others are sold to pawn shops or cellphone outlets.

Source: Star Tribune, “All aboard, and hold onto your phones,” Pat Doyle, Nov. 2, 2011

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