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iPhone Thief Arrested by Decoy Cop

By Della Hasselle | December 12, 2011 8:34am
A mugger near Columbia University has been targeting people with iPhones, cops say.
A mugger near Columbia University has been targeting people with iPhones, cops say.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

MIDTOWN — A seasoned pickpocket was caught red-handed after he lifted an Apple iPhone from the backpack of a plainclothes decoy police officer on the number 4 train Sunday afternoon, according to the NYPD.

Bronx resident Raymond Rodriguez, 47, was arrested around 3:15 p.m. on Sunday at the Grand Central Station stop of the train. He was charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, police said.

Sticky-fingered suspect Rodriguez has 27 prior arrests on his record for crimes including assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny and possession of stolen property.

Police say they have doubled the number of officers trained for decoy operations following a recent spike in snatched electronics from straphangers.

Cell phones and other personal electronics are often snatched if they're held by an open subway door, or if they're left in the pocket of a backpack, the NYPD said.

The demand for iPhones has been especially high lately, according to police. Last month, a picky iPhone thief near Columbia University pulled a gun on a student on West 114th Street and demanded the coveted Apple phone, but the victim handed over a Blackberry, DNAinfo reported.

Disgusted, the suspect handed the phone back and moved on to another victim.

DNAinfo also reported that on the Upper East Side, police are searching for a smartphone thief wanted for a string of armed iPhone robberies.

Police believe the suspect is connected to three incidents on Madison and Lexington avenues in the 70s in which victims were approached by a man armed with a gun who demanded their pricey iPhones, according to NYPD.

In October, a decoy officer arrested Bronx residents and suspects Juan Colon, 19, and Nicholas Rodriguez, 19, when they tried to snatch an iPhone from the cop at 125th street along the Lexington Avenue line, the NYPD said.

Colon had 11 prior arrests, and Rodriguez had eight, according to cops.

In September, Larry Taylor, 51, was arrested for snatching a decoy's iPhone on the L train at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue. Police described Taylor as a "career pickpocket" with 46 prior arrests under his belt, 7 for robbery.

The decoy arrests go back to April, when a decoy team caught Kassiem Thomas, 47, on the Lexington Avenue subway line at 59th Street when he was discovered allegedly stealing iPhones with a sweatshirt draped over his arm to conceal his actions, according to police.