Every few months, as the MTA releases its crime statistics, we’ve seen a few themes recycled through the news coverage. As I wrote in October and again revisted in January, straphangers’ obliviousness underground has resulted in an uptick in subway thefts as those who flaunt their smartphones and tablets are getting robbed.
Today, as The Wall Street Journal reports, those numbers are again on the rise. Grand larcenies — defined, in part, as the theft of a cell phone — are up 17.8 percent in 2011 as compared with the same time period last year, and police officials are blaming the iPhone 4. “We’ve been seeing an incredible trend of young people snatching those cellphones,” Raymond Diaz, head of the NYPD’s transit department, said to MTA officials today.
According to Diaz, most thefts occur on crowded trains when pickpockets can be most active, and the lines most frequently targeted included the East Side IRT in Manhattan, the J and L trains in Brooklyn and the M, R and 7 lines in Queens. The thieves, the cops say, are reselling most of the phones, and the NYPD is planning a sting. Still, despite this news, crime underground is well below levels from even the late 1990s, and Diaz warned against straphangers who are too complacent. “We feel good that people feel comfortable using their devices,” he said. “But they’ve just go to be a little cautious, especially when they’re sitting by the door.”