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MTA Fights Back Against Cell Phone Robberies On Public Transit

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Violent robberies on public transportation. Local police and federal officers are fighting back against cell phone thefts–a problem that is multiplying on local transit.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the effort to stop thieves in their tracks.

MTA Police say they have seen a spike in cell phone and tablet thefts since 2011. Now they’re trying to stop it.

Grab and go. Brazen thieves target transit riders, snatching expensive devices then taking off.

“Well, it’s a growing problem and that’s why we’re really concerned,” said Paul Shepard, MTA spokesperson.

Three men are wanted for stealing a victim’s phone at gunpoint on an MTA bus, then forcing the man to withdraw money from an ATM to get his phone back.

Now the transit administration is fighting back. They’ve stepped up enforcement, placing officers at bus and rail stops and putting plain-clothed officers on buses and trains.

In 2012, transit police reported 151 incidents of mobile device theft.

MTA officials say this year, they’re seeing about a dozen electronics thefts every single month.

Officials say riders should download tracking applications, like “Find My iPhone,” and be vigilant at all times.

“Put your personal belongings away. Not just in your pocket, not keep them in your hand. Just be conscious of your surroundings,” said Lt. Kelly Holman, MTA Police.

Passengers who spoke with WJZ say they take precautions on public transit.

“I don’t sit next to nobody I don’t know,” a passenger said.

“I don’t take [my phone] out too much. I just put it in my pocket and listen to music,” said another.

Many are pleased to see the stepped up enforcement.

“I’m always happy to see more police anywhere I go because I think that we need more safety. We need more protection in all areas,” said Joanne Goodman, MTA rider.

Protection so you don’t become a target.

Apple has installed a kill switch on newer model iPhones to render them inoperable if stolen.

Several major cell phone carriers have agreed to build a database to track lost and stolen cell phones to make it harder for thieves to sell them.

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