Philadelphia is top city in smartphone thefts, AAA says

PHILADELPHIA - August 21, 2013

The title 'top theft and loss hotspot' was based on research by mobile security firm Lookout.

AAA cites three University City robberies that saw Drexel University students robbed of their cell phones at gunpoint.

On April 29th, a pharmacist was shot in Society Hill. Surveillance cameras show he was running after a man who had just stolen his cell phone.

SEPTA smartphone robberies also factored into Philadelphia's top position atop this list.

"Thirty-nine cell phones, on average, were lost or stolen each month last year throughout SEPTA's mass transit system according to the transit police," AAA said.

In March, after several thefts, SEPTA made a push to help keep riders from being easy targets. They handed out informational flyers.

"If you commit a crime on SEPTA, we're going to make you famous. Mom's going to see you on TV. We're going to track you down and lock you up and hook you up with a cheese sandwich," said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel.

SEPTA Police have released picture after picture of cell phone thieves. They've put out decoys - plainclothes officers - in trouble spots.

But Nestel says one easy change would cut these thefts in half.

If people would put their phones away as the trains are pulling in and out of SEPTA stations, he said, fewer phones would be stolen.

"That's the opportunity time. That's when the criminal is looking to see who's still got their face in their phone, can snatch it out of their hand and right out the door. And the doors close, so the person who loses the phone isn't able to chase after him," said Nestel.

AAA says almost one out of three robberies nationwide involves the theft of a mobile phone.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is coordinating formation this fall of a national database system to track cellphones reported stolen.

The top 10 smartphone theft and loss hotspots around the U.S. (determined by the number of reported stolen smartphone cases per capita) are:

1. Philadelphia
2. Seattle
3. Oakland
4. Long Beach
5. Newark
6. Detroit
7. Cleveland
8. Baltimore
9. New York
10. Boston

AAA has provided theft prevention tips. They emphasize the importance of remaining aware and alert at all times, and protecting personal property while using public transportation, such as subways and buses, and offers the following tips:

  • Remain alert because 113 smartphones are stolen or lost every minute in the USA. So be aware of your surroundings where people are packed in close quarters on mass transit, on elevators and escalators.
  • Install a phone app (such as Apple's "Find My iPhone") which will allow you to log into a website to locate a stolen or lost phone, and wipe the phone clean of personal data.
  • Don't doze off while riding on mass transit.
  • Carry your electronic device in your front pocket or a place where it is not easily seen or reachable.
  • Keep your wallet as close to your body as possible, such as in a pants pocket or inside jacket pocket.
  • Only carry purses that close tightly, and keep purses on your lap.
  • Avoid using an electronic device on platforms.
  • If you must use an electronic device protect it by holding it with both hands at all times.
  • Change the color of your earphones. White or red wires can indicate expensive equipment.
  • Keep the volume low if you have headphones or earbuds on so you can hear what's happening around you.

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