NYPD initiatives aim to combat iPhone theft
In the middle of the afternoon last Thursday, a 17-year-old girl was followed into her apartment building on East 187th Street and viciously beaten — all, seemingly, for her iPhone.
Police caught the attack on surveillance camera, and described the suspect as Hispanic and in his early 20s, with cornrows and a burgundy coat with a fur-trimmed hood.
The suspect pushed her against a wall then dragged her down a flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs he punched her repeatedly in the face then stole her iPhone and fled.
Though not always violent, iPhone thefts are a major problem in New York City, according to police statistics.
Last year, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed an increase in crime citywide on a spike in the theft of Apple products.
Between January 1 of last year and September 23, the NYPD reported 11,447 thefts of Apple products, a 40 percent increase from the year before.
The total number of crimes citywide for that same time period was 79,335, a 4 percent increase from the year before.
Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne noted in September that the increase in Apple thefts exceeded the increase in overall crime by 265.
In December, the New York Times reported an increase in major crime from the year before: 3,484 more on record.
Apple product thefts were reportedly up by 3,890. Mayor Bloomberg’s press secretary Marc La Vorgna reportedly pointed to this figure as evidence that Apple products were to blame for the overall increase in crime.
The NYPD is working to prevent these thefts, in part with a program called Operation I.D., where Community Affairs officers offer free engraving of serial numbers on any electronic valuable. A Crime Prevention Officer at any precinct can coordinate that, and record the serial number and owner’s name and address.
The NYPD also encourages the use of the “Find My iPhone” app, and the PIN lock function.
Most importantly, though, New Yorkers are advised to remain alert and keep electronic devices out of sight as much as possible.
Stolen phones can be re-programmed with a new number and a new account. Senator Chuck Schumer proposed legislation last year that would create a national registry of stolen phones with the Federal Communications Commission, so that thieves would be unable to re-register stolen phones.
One New Yorker’s story
Lauren Pisano was robbed of her phone on the F train into Manhattan after visiting her mother in Forest Hills.
Pisano was looking at iPhone photos from a recent trip to Europe when a teenager waiting by the car doors grabbed her phone and ran.
Pisano jumped up to chase him but realized the train doors were going to close with all of her things inside. Some helpful passengers held the doors open for her and collected belongings that had gone flying when she leapt at the thief.
Afterward, Pisano said, “everyone was in shock, but there was nothing anyone could do so we all sat in silence — everyone staring at me.” When she got off the train, another passenger offered to serve as a witness if Pisano wanted to file a police report but Pisano declined, choosing instead to head straight to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue for a replacement, “hoping I could act like it never happened,” she said.
“I still get upset when I think about,” Pisano said. “It was so terrible to feel so violated and unsafe in ‘my’ city.”
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat