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NYPD Stepping Up Effort Against Subway Bandits Stealing Electronic Devices

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Police say this duo is behind a series of robberies targeting women in the NYC subway system. (credit: NYPD)

Police say this duo is behind a series of robberies targeting women in the NYC subway system. (credit: NYPD)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You won’t see them, but they’ll be watching.

Undercover police officers are riding the rails to combat a sudden surge in robberies of straphangers’ cell phones, reports CBS 2’s Kristin Thorne.

There will be a new set of eyes and ears on the subway.   Dozens of undercovers will be disguising themselves as normal subway riders in order to catch the thieves who’ve been snatching people’s electronics, including iPods and iPads.

“When you’re sitting on the train, especially by the door, you’re using the cell phone … next thing you know you have no phone,” said Jasmay Stevenson of Canarsie.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports

There has been a 23-percent surge in robberies in the subway this year, compared with the same period last year. Police said the suspects are getting more bold, including running up to people during the evening rush and grabbing their phones literally out of their hands and then running off.

“I actually saw a guy trying to do that in the subway. It’s kind of scary. The guy was just holding his phone, walking up the stairs. Some guy grabs it and tries to run away,” West Village resident Sam Simpson said.

The undercover officers will pretend to be subway riders playing with their cell phones or listening to music. They’ll wait for the suspects to strike and then they’ll catch them in the act.

“I guess I’ll feel more protected that way because I’m kind of always in my own zone. I think everyone is,” one straphanger said.

The NYPD said the undercover officers are taking a five-day intensive decoy training program to learn how to mimic distracted straphangers.

In the meantime, police said put your cell phones and iPads away.

The NYPD wouldn’t say exactly how many officers it’s deploying or where.

If you have any information, call police or Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS or visit their website.

Are you concerned when using an electronic device on the subway? Sound off in our comments section.

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