Riders make themselves targets

Staff Editorial

Online, a 16 gigabyte Apple iPhone 4S costs $199, but there is a trend arising where the iconic cell phone goes for the five-finger discount.

Many crimes in San Francisco are declining, but clearly one that is not following the same pattern is the theft of cell phones and other electronic devices, according to San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.

Most people check their phones throughout the day without a second thought to their safety. Opening up iPads in a coffee shop or fires up a Kindle while waiting at the bus stop, not thinking that updating her Facebook status or listening to music while waiting for Muni could make her a victim of petty larceny.

Thanks to debit cards, people don’t carry as much cash these days so expensive cell phones and handheld electronics have become the target for thieves.

Twenty-four arrests were made by the Muni Task Force out of 130 crimes that occurred on the public transit, according to the SFPD. The number does not seem high, but it is unsettling because out these reported crimes, virtually all of them involved a gun, knife or physical assault.

Cell phones are sold on the streets or online and can also be shipped as far as Asia and Europe, just to make money, according to the SFPD.

Thieves prey on the stereotypically weak — women, the handicapped and young children, according to Sgt. Mark Obrochta. A thief’s job of wiping a phone’s data is made even easier when 70 percent of people do not have a password to protect their smartphone, according to the Better Business Bureau.

There is a zero to 2 percent chance of recovery for stolen cell phones, according to phonearena.com. The website advises victims of phone robberies to buy a new phone and cancel the stolen one because these crimes on public transit are too common of scenarios.

Individuals walking and texting can also be a target for crime or injury. Texting takes the user’s focus away from the simple task and diverts her attention from potential muggers or passing cars when she’s crossing the street.

An iPod or music player hidden away in a pocket or stashed in a purse doesn’t make the device much safer when earbud wires are showing. They are a dead give away that the listener may be distracted and not be aware of her surroundings, making her an easy target.

Users of electronic gadgets need to be street smart when carrying expensive devices. This means not listening to music on public transportation, holding laptops and smartphones in your hand or in pants pockets and being aware of your surroundings so not to become a victim.