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iPhone Thefts Keep Crime Stats High in Crown Heights

By Sonja Sharp | May 22, 2012 8:45am
Police in the 71st Precinct are seeing a spike in cell phone snatches, particularly iPhones.
Police in the 71st Precinct are seeing a spike in cell phone snatches, particularly iPhones.
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CROWN HEIGHTS — Chatty Cathys beware — Brooklyn's 71st Precinct has seen a surge in cell phone snatches, even as other crimes have ebbed, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

More than two-thirds of those thefts involved iPhones, police said.

"If we didn’t have these cell phone snatchings, we’d be down for the year tremendously," said Community Affairs Officer Vincent Martinos. "In the old days, it was robberies and shootings. Now it's cell phones." 

There were 491 crimes reported in the precinct this year, down from 535 at this time in 2011. But street snatches are up, and the overwhelming majority have been cell phone grabs, police said.

The mostly teenage thugs are particularly enamored of the iPhone, Precinct Captain John Lewis said. Of the 42 phones swiped in the area since January, about 30 were iPhones. 

"We've made arrests on 10 of these incidents," Lewis said. "Half of the time, the perpetrator is 20 or under." 

Smartphones are small, portable and omnipresent, which makes them easy to snatch.

And they're also deeply coveted, which makes them easy to sell.

"It's a very easy crime to perpetrate," Martinos said. "The possibility of getting caught is slim to none, and there's a high market for these phones." 

Thieves target subway stops, since unsuspecting straphangers often reach for their phones as soon as they get above ground. In 2012, those snatches have clustered around Flatbush Avenue and Utica Avenue, with a smaller number at the Franklin Avenue and Kingston Avenue stops, police said. 

"They’ll start running from a block behind you and pick up speed and snatch it out of your hand and keep running," Martinos said. "All you’ll see is the back of them." 

The snatchers usually unload their loot to middlemen, whom police believe may be selling the phones overseas. 

"The only way we're going to make inroads with this is through education," Martinos said. "We don’t see an end in sight, unless people really start smartening up."