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Spike seen in cellphone thefts on Metro lines

Friday - 2/21/2014, 8:11am  ET

Getty_iPhoneAppHealth.jpg
Cellphones are the target of thieves on the Metro, officials say. (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 2013CALENDAR YEAR 2012
Total theft snatches640 cases490 cases
Theft snatch cases involve personal electronic devices94 percent (603 cases)87 percent (424 cases)
iPhones71 percent60 percent
Cellphones20 percent23 percent
Tablets8 percent12 percent
iPodsless than 1 percent2 percent
Thefts of handbags, walletts, money, clothing37 cases66 cases
   
Male suspects93 percent94 percent
Suspects younger than 25 years old98 percent96 percent
Suspects who acted alone76 percent84 percent
   
Victims69 percent women50/50 for men and women

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