(NEW YORK) — Cities across the country are on alert as officials warn of an uptick in stolen Apple products, dubbed “Apple picking.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission, 30-40 percent of robberies in several major cities involve cell phones, including 38 percent in Washington, D.C. and 40 percent in New York City.
Las Vegas police broke up two rings of cell phone thieves on September 6.
“What this started with, we had a normal report of a theft. Somebody stole someone’s cell phone,” said Bill Cassell of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept. “Our officers started investigating and realized there were a lot of other similar instances.”
The LVMPD connected these robberies because they all seemed to target similar victims.
“They were all targeting people in fast food restaurants, coffee shops, people walking on street,” Cassell said. “The victims all had a similar profile too. They were all focused on their cells phones, inattentive of their surroundings and looked like they wouldn’t put up a fight.”
The thieves, many of them juveniles, would either ask to borrow the victim’s cell phone and run off with it or simply grab it from their unsuspecting victims.
“We tracked down some of the individuals involved and in doing this, realized there were two groups of people doing the same crime the same way. But they weren’t associated,” said Cassell.
One of the groups was charged with 14 cell phone thefts. The other has been charged with seven thefts, but according to Cassell, the investigation of 20-30 thefts is still on-going.
The recent increase in cell phone thefts has prompted action from both the government and major wireless carriers.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jethro Mullen Ivana Kottasova and Patrick Gillespie, CNN
Paul Menser, Bizmojo Idaho
Alanna Petroff, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN