NEW YORK (CBS 2) — If you’re used to toting a pocketful of gadgets everywhere you go, you’re certainly not alone. However, police said that popularity combined with a casual attitude turns owners of items like iPods and smartphones into a bullseye for thieves, particularly underground.
Last month, as CBS 2HD’s Kathryn Brown reports, the number of gadget robberies above-ground dropped 8-percent but on subways it spiked nearly 15-percent. So far this year, they are up 2.5-percent.
“Every day, can’t go without it,” said Patricia Williams of Harlem.
“I commute from New Jersey in so I use it every day on the commute,” said Michael Laibson of Pompton Lakes, N.J.
“I just can’t ride the train without it,” said Paras Jagar of Flatbush.
Police said most times the victims were standing near subway doors. At stops, thieves yank the gadgets away and jump off the cars just before they close, catching their marks off-guard and making the criminals nearly impossible to track down.
“It just seems easier you know you snatch and run, there’s plenty of exits once the doors close what can a person do,” said Rodney Smith of Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
Straphangers weren’t surprised. “If you have a very expensive thing you’re kind of an attraction to those who are stealing,” said Shaban Gjok of Pelham Parkway in the Bronx.
“On the subway I don’t like to take it out a lot,” said Karen Hayes of Wayne, N.J.
However, police said you can do something. They urge riders to take advantage of a free program the NYPD offers, where owners can bring their portable electronics to any precinct and police will etch an ID number on it, so if it does get stolen, it’s easier to find.
Police warned teenagers were especially vulnerable, particularly in the hours just after school.
Word of the increase came on the heels of a spree of subway robberies on the Upper West Side. Police said the suspect was targeting women specifically, and when one fought back, he stabbed her.
“Definitely horrible, I ride the subway every day and it’s alarming to hear someone’s out there doing that,” said Jasmine Rodriguez of Brentwood.
Pushing back against growing crime and other underground emergencies, the MTA was testing out a high-tech intercom system at some stations.
The push-button system was designed to give straphangers easy and quick access to the MTA’s control center.
“The ability to notify the control center, the difference of seconds may mean the difference of life,” said Tom Pendergast, NYC Transit President.
“Now that they’re cutting back on the MTA workers at the booths, you get to call somebody and hopefully they’ll answer,” said Richard Abramov of Fresh Meadows.