Police warn about cell phone thieves
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) -- Miami Beach police are warning those prone to using their smartphones in public about a robbery ring targeting them.
The thieves are so dangerous, police said, they have even resorted to stealing phones from owners at gunpoint.
"I was sitting waiting for my friend outside of a club by his car," said Peter Trubetskoy, who was approached by the subjects. "Two guys approached me, and they said 'Hello' to me, 'Hi.' I was polite to them, and they walked away from me. They came back with another guy who pointed a gun to my head and asked for my cellphone."
Police said the crooks kept them very busy over the weekend, as officers made a total of eight arrests related to these crimes. On Monday, detectives continue to work at connecting the eight individuals arrested to any other cases. They are also working with Coral Gables Police and City of Miami Police to see if those arrested are involved in even more alleged crimes.
Police call the crime "apple picking," where subjects targeted victims who were walking around on their cell phones or holding them in plain sight. The thieves then approached victims, usually at gunpoint, to demanded the phones.
Miami Beach Police Deputy Chief Mark Overton confirmed four of these crimes occurred on Miami Beach alone over the weekend. As many as eight others may have also occurred in the Cities of Coral Gables and Miami, which investigators are continuing to look into. "That's right," said Overton. "These people have been very active throughout the entire Miami-Dade area, not only in Miami Beach."
Overton warns this crime has become a national epidemic. "It's not only a Miami Beach problem. It's a nationwide problem. If you look at some of the other states in the nation, there have been dramatic increases in their statistics as a result of the people being targeted for these smart phones."
"Criminals now are seeing these smartphones as the same as cash," Overton said. The thieves can profit anywhere between $500 to $600 by reselling these phones.
"We're seeing an increase, not only in the incidents of people having their phones stolen either pick-pocketed or leaving them unattended, but now to the point where the criminals are actually being so aggressive and the fact that they're actually robbing people for their phones."
A summit was held in New York where the State Attorney General discussed how to reduce the number of cell phone thefts and the violence that goes with it. "We are prepared to elevate the issue as much as we have to get the right result," Eric Schniedermann said.
A woman's daughter was a victim in a cellphone robbery back in April. "She was petrified," Desiree Anthony said. "She said she was absolutely petrified."
Miami Beach Police hope to kick off an awareness campaign as they continue to stay on top of this issue. They first emphasize that anyone who decides to take out their cell phone in public to be aware of their surroundings, as they need to recognize and understand that there are people out there looking to take that smart phone away.
Other tips include don't text and walk, never leave your phone out and within easy reach of passerby and use security features to enable location features.
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