Thieves in San Francisco are reportedly forming teams and developing new ways to steal your smartphone. The various schemes they’ve devised usually employ one person to create a distraction while another nabs your device and takes off with it. But a more recent trend uses a phony good Samaritan who will actually return your device in the hope of receiving a reward.
“The various tactics include slapping a phone out of someone’s hand while he or she is talking on it, using accomplices to block victims from chasing after thieves, and even enlisting someone to do what appears to be a good deed in getting the phone back,” SF Examiner reports.
“One recent trend, according to Police Chief Greg Suhr, involves theft accomplices posing as good Samaritans who return the pilfered cellphones in hopes of benefiting from the grateful victims.”
Suhr explained that thieves will sometimes steal a phone from their victim and run away with it, but a supposed “crime-fighting vigilante” will chase them down and retrieve it. They will then return the handset to the victim and quietly ask for a $20 reward for their effort.
As a result of these schemes, police have seen a decline in narcotics arrests. It’s thought that stealing cellphones is not only less risky than low-level drug dealing, but also more profitable. An iPhone can be sold on the black market for at least $100, while some may not even make $20 selling crack cocaine.
“When everybody is mystified as to why narcotics arrests are down, maybe it’s because there are so many cellphone robbers,” Suhr said.
Some have described the thieves’ tactics as akin to those used in the NFL. When one man’s cellphone was stolen while he was eating in Taco Bell on Mission Street earlier this month, he attempted to chase down the female suspect, but he was blocked from leaving the restaurant by two accomplices.
Fortunately, in this case police were able to apprehend all three suspects a couple of blocks away.
They later found that the trio were involved in an attempted robbery on a Muni bus a half-hour before the Taco Bell incident. They tried to use the “slap, grab and run” method to steal a cellphone out of a man’s hand, but he was able to grab it off the floor before they could and they decided to flee from the bus.
- Source SF Examiner