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Electronic Device Theft Problem On Metro | News

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Electronic Device Theft Problem On Metro
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Electronic Device Theft Problem On Metro

WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- New crime statistics show a growing number of riders on Metro are getting their cell phones stolen. 

The problem is so bad that Transit Police are issuing a reminder to people about how to keep their electronic gadgets safe.  In 2010, there were roughly 1,000 electronic devices stolen and 60% of those thefts were right out of owners' hands. 

The new Metro crime report also shows that 76% of all robberies on the transit system are theft of electronic devices. 

J.D. Stier tells how it almost happened to him in what police call a classic case.

"It was a week night a few months ago," he explained.  "I was taking the Green line north and between L'Enfant and Chinatown a group of roughly 6 teenagers got on. I was sitting on the bench nearest the door and they were all congregating near the door standing.  I was on my iPhone typing an email and out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the guys signal to another one of the guys, pointing at me."

Thanks to Stier's awareness of his surroundings, he held onto his cell phone with a tight grip.  When one of the teens tried to grab it from him and bolt out the door, he jumped back at them and yelled, frightening the teens off. 

Recently, one ring of thieves were busted by officials.  The group of young men known by police and prosecutors as the Swisha Splash Boys made their living robbing people of their cell phones on public transportation.  One 24-year-old in the group was sentenced in D.C. Superior Court to six years in prison.

Transportation blogger Erik Weber of Greater Greater Washington said riders can achieve some level of protection by not sitting close to the train doors, by hiding cell phones and by keeping their devices on low volumes. 

But Weber also believes that Metro Transit Police can play a greater part in theft prevention than they currently are. 

"Metro got $26 million in grant money from the Transportation Security Administration to do terrorism avoidance activities," he said.  "One of the things they're supposed to be doing is visible things and I feel like there should be a way for them to do terrorism deterrence inside the stations that also serves a public safety need."

Weber said some transportation experts call Metro's baggage screening "security theater."

"They're doing all these searches outside of stations at the same time all these thefts are going on inside the stations," he said.  "If police are around inside the stations too, not only are you potentially deterring terrorists but you're also making riders feel safer."

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