Washington, DC Police: “Use good street sense” when using iPhones in public

Police: Robbers Targeting Pedestrians with iPhones « Borderstan (Washington, DC) – Washington, DC Metro Police are now advising people not to use iPhones of an increase in robberies with a specific target, the iPhone, that device specifically, in public. This is a big deal, in a previously-thought-of-as-safe part of the city.

People like me wish Apple would sell a version of its headphones that are not white. These appear to be setting us up as targets.

I was a recent victim of an iPhone snatcher in downtown Washington, DC, and in comparison to some of the crimes detailed in the blog post above, I consider myself very lucky.

It was going to happen eventually that wearing a $600 device would increase personal crime. I can’t help thinking that there’s a way to harness the wisdom of crowds and the very technology being sought after – maybe a "findmyiphone" aggregator that could help communiites and the police zero in on where these devices are ending up.

It’s worth noting that my stolen phone localized itself to the same location on multiple days, near a large Washington, DC, shopping mall, in Pentagon City, before I remotely secured it and wiped it clean (what a great feature – thank you Apple!).

To attest to the seriousness of this issue, even our local gym is passing on the warning:

Attention Members:There has been a report of an increase in robberies over the past week in the Golden Triangle/U Street area. Although not directly related to the club we thought it would be helpful to pass along the following alert from Metro P.D.

Golden Triangle Crime Alert

The Metropolitan Police Department has asked us to pass along the following information. As of late there has been an increase in street robberies around the DC Metro area. The Second District is not immune from these incidents. There is not a specific suspect lookout but there is a very specific target – the iPhone. To help combat this problem, MPD is asking the users of all phones and PDAs to use good street sense when carrying and using your mobile device.

Always be aware of your surroundings. It is a good idea to use your phone while stationary in a spot that will enable you to talk and observe your surroundings at the same time. Keep your mobile device close to your body and make sure it is out of sight when not in use. Please pass this along to reach as many people as possible.

Thank you,
MaryKay Moe

Operations Coordinator
Golden Triangle Business Improvement District

As Washington, DC is the #epicenter of many innovations (and health care transformation), it is also a leader in many social issues, some not so enjoyable. Let our experience prevent others from having the same in this case.

17 Replies to “Washington, DC Police: “Use good street sense” when using iPhones in public”

  1. If you could remotely secure and then wipe the phone, why could you not also locate the thief (or the person who already bought it from the thief) and retrieve the phone?

  2. Hi Bill,

    Good question. The find my iphone feature can only localize within a 2-3 block radius, so within a congested urban area, its unlikely this will reveal the exactl location. The thief also turns the phone on and off at various intervals, to avoid real-time detection. When you wipe the phone, it wipes everything, including the ability to trace the phone. For most people, it's more important to have the data wiped than to hope the phone will turn up.

    At this point, it seems that they may understand the capabilities of this feature and are turning on the phone once a day to wait for the wipe signal.

    The other issue is that it's probably not the best (or safest) idea to interact with the criminals after the fact. I think if you read the blog post linked above, you'll understand what can happen. The police here have advised that if threatened, the safest thing to do is cooperate and leave the scene quickly,

    Ted

  3. Umm… This is a wee bit over-the-top…

    An exigent check with MPD gets this response:

    "one must be aware of surroundings."

    Your own own post gives us:

    "MPD is asking the users of all phones and PDAs to use good street sense when carrying and using your mobile device.

    Always be aware of your surroundings. It is a good idea to use your phone while stationary in a spot that will enable you to talk and observe your surroundings at the same time. Keep your mobile device close to your body and make sure it is out of sight when not in use"

    By "use", reading the above and your post–as well as "good common tactical sense"– I think means have the device in a bag, pocket, inside pocket and do NOT have it out when you're not changing song,/volume etc…

    A "snatch" is quite different than a 'deliberate' robbery.

    1. Dear D.C. Hughes,

      Sure, take a look at the linked post within my post – comments to that one also – multiple armed robberies by individuals wearing ski masks. That's more than a snatching, and it's what prompted my post. It's worth a few bytes in the blogosphere to prevent violence based on the use of a piece of plastic and glass,

      Ted

  4. >>multiple armed robberies by individuals wearing ski masks.<<

    I can't address that, yet. (We'll look into it tomorrow)

    However, a check with MPD command staff last night: "Is MPD 'advising' citizens NOT to use their iPhone 'in public'?", got the consistent response "No".

    One response added: "using phones..ipods…hinders senses…reaction time…in 2d several robbery snatches of iphones."

  5. Hi D.C. Hughes,

    Thanks for checking into that, and feel free to post any factual information you discover here. Much appreciated.

    Also, could you disclose your connection to MPD?

    I'm fine with people being anonymous in their comments on this blog, however, in this case, you are presenting yourself as someone who has inside information to this issue and it's only fair that you disclose to establish credibility. Please post that information as well.

    I understand that your comments are in the best interest of our community's safety, no one likes to feel like they are an open target without a safety net. If what you are saying is that these neighborhoods are being patrolled more aggressively and this situation is being watched closely, all the better,

    Ted

  6. >>someone who has inside information to this issue <<

    Nope. No "inside information"–I'm a local journalist and simply know who to ask. http://www.lemurnewsimages.com

    >>If what you are saying is that these neighborhoods are being patrolled more aggressively and this situation is being watched closely, all the better<<

    I *assume* that since MPD is aware of the situation they, and specifically MPD-2D, are taking appropriate tactical action.

    I can, however, ask when I follow-up tomorrow on the other piece.

    1. D.C.,

      Right on and thank you. If you are talking with them, I am curious as to whether the information that comes from the find-my-iPhone feature is useful to them in doing investigations. If the info from multiple thefts could be aggregated would it help them track down and minimize the impact?

      Feel free to post what you find out, it will round out the information here and make sure it's accurate,

      Ted

  7. Commander Jacob Kishter, of MPD-3D, responds:

    Robberies are down 71 percent along the [MPD-2D/PSA] 208 and [MPD-3D/PSA] 307 border. [Commander] Klein and [I] discuss crime almost daily and have our PSA Lieutenants doing border patrols.

    IPhones seem to be the new item of choice for the young kids. Folks should just be aware of their surroundings when walking.

  8. I am curious as to whether the information that comes from the find-my-iPhone feature is useful to them in doing investigations. If the info from multiple thefts could be aggregated would it help them track down and minimize the impact?

    Commander Jacob Kishter, of MPD-3D, responds:

    The IFind and GPS features on the cell phones are very useful. We have closed several cases recently with the technology.

  9. D.C.,

    Hey thanks for taking the time to get this information. I edited the post above to better reflect MPD guidance, let me know if anything else can be improved,

    Ted

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