SEPTA sees cell phone thefts decline for first time in three years

phone-phl_thefts_SEPTA2_4c_5
Metro file photo. Credit: Rikard Larma

Following three consecutive years of rising cell phone thefts and robberies throughout the SEPTA transit system, officials are finally feeling a reprieve.

SEPTA officials from Jan. 1 through Aug. 18 recorded 217 cell phone thefts and 51 cell phone robberies.

That’s a decline of 7 and 14 percent, respectively, over the same period last year.

SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel III said a technological innovation three years ago first touched off an explosion of cell-related crime on the transit system.

“In 2010, AT&T made the use of their phone line available in the el and the subway,” he said.

“So the result then is that people don’t keep their phone in their pocket and have their phone in their hands and are using them. So ever since 2010 when AT&T enabled service in the system, the number of phone thefts and robberies skyrocketed – they went up very high in 2011 and continued to go up in 2012. We’re seeing a decrease now and we’re hoping to hold steady on that.”

SEPTA responded to the rise with several initiatives – shifting staffing levels to ensure more transit police are available in the hours when thefts and robberies are most likely to occur, launching undercover decoy operations and encouraging transit riders to install GPS tracking apps on their devices.

An avid Twitter user, Nestel has also taken to social media to circulate information about suspects and crime patterns.

“In my eyes, it’s a great way to get the message out to our riders about what’s going on and what we’re doing about it, and to make people feel safer because, overall, the system is a safe place to ride,” he said.

Despite the tenuously encouraging statistics, Nestel said he’s not yet ready to declare victory.

“We’re very involved in tracking people who commit thefts and robberies in the system and we’re tenacious about catching them, so I’m hoping all of that is having a positive effect, but I really am reluctant to pat myself on the back,” he said, noting only time will tell if SEPTA’s efforts are directly contributing to the decreased numbers of if the decline is part of a more widespread trend.

SEPTA’s top cop did have some words of advice for cell phone-toting commuters.

“If you’re on a train, stop using the phone when it’s pulling into the station – just that period of time as you’re pulling into the station and waiting for people to board,” he said.

“When the doors close, you can go back to using the phone. On the platform, I’d just ask you to every couple minutes look around and see who’s paying attention to you and who’s looking at your phone. If people were just a tiny little bit more aware of their surroundings, I think they could do a lot to help us get these numbers down.”

By the numbers

217 Cell phone thefts were recorded by SEPTA officials from Jan. 1 through Aug. 18.

234 Cell phone thefts were recorded during the same time period last year.

7% The year-over-year decline in cell phone thefts.

51 Cell phone robberies were recorded by SEPTA officials from Jan. 1 through Aug. 18.

59 Cell phone robberies were recorded during the same period last year.

14% The year-over-year decline in cell phone robberies.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.