East Bay News

Police want cellphone theft victims to come forward

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

There's a growing crime problem with thieves brazenly stealing cellphones from BART passengers. The most recent crime victim was pepper sprayed by the attackers and prompted police to ask for the public's help because there may be more victims.

The suspects were arrested on July 18, thanks to several witnesses who acted very quickly. BART police said they believe there are five other crimes that are linked to these two young men where they stole a device and used pepper spray.

BART police say the two young men, ages 14 and 17, boarded a train, and walked down the aisles looking for anyone with an electronic device.

"When the train approached the stop, they signaled each other like, 'Hey this is it,' and then they just snatched the phone and ran off," said BART police Ofc. Era Jenkins.

The victim and two witnesses chased them at Balboa Park station. That's when, police say, they used pepper spray and managed to escape.

Jenkins says there have been similar complaints made by other victims.

"It appears that they would pepper spray people in order to intimidate them or to help them get away faster," said Jenkins.

While the two young men have been arrested, BART police believe there are even more victims and want people to come forward. Investigators are sure the same type of crime occurred on trains at Balboa Park, Glen Park 16th and 24th Street stations.

It is a relatively new type of theft, which is growing. In 2010 there were 107 reported cases of stolen electronic devices on BART trains, 124 in 2011 and 55 so far this year.

BART passenger Verno Booth says he hides his smartphone. "You shouldn't have it exposed because not just your cellphone that's being stolen, but even the iPads that people are walking around with, their tablets."

BART police say passengers are so focused on their devices, they don't pay attention to those around them who may be looking to steal them.

"In that type of situation, growing up in the city, you should just let them have it because you want to be safe and you want to take care of yourself and as long as you're safe then that's fine. These are materialistic things that shouldn't be that important," said BART passenger Aliya Chisti.

About a week ago we reported that BART police had arrested two people suspected of assaulting and robbing a pregnant woman in the East Bay. However, that case is unrelated to these thefts. Police say while they sprayed the woman, it was not with pepper spray, they used cologne.

If you have more information for BART police, you can call them at: (510) 464-7040

For those with an iPhone, iPad or other Apple products, one local police department is reminding users to download the "Find My iPhone" app. This app helps you locate your stolen item on a map and once located, it can help police track it down.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
BART, smartphones, cellphone, crime, iPad, iphone, east bay news, lyanne melendez
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