iPhone ‘snatch and grab’ thefts on Metro rise

Metro said thefts on its more than 80-mile system have spiked, especially “snatch and grabs” of personal electronic devices.

Once again Metro officials are warning riders to keep a close eye on their electronic devices — especially iPhones.

There were 643 iPhones stolen in the system in 2013, compared to 491 in 2012, officials said. Bike thefts at Metro stations are up too –411 were stolen last year, compared to 330 in 2012.

In one of the latest incidents, a woman was walking along the platform at Capitol South Metro station Saturday afternoon when a teen came up behind her, grabbed her iPhone and ran. The woman chased the teen, but fell as she was running down the platform. She got up and continued to chase him. The boy was caught just outside the station and arrested, and her  phone was recovered.

Although this case had a happy ending, Metro officials remind riders that it is “never a good idea to chase a suspect.”

In 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen Milliken was on his way to work at the Gallery Place station when a young man snatched his iPhone and ran off. The judge chased and caught the suspect, but he got away. In 2012, a program analyst at the Pentagon broke his arm chasing a man who had snatched his iPad .

“No property is worth the risk of getting hurt,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. Instead, officials said, riders should get a good description of the suspect.

The thieves snatching the devices are primarily young men acting alone, according to Metro Transit Police. About two-thirds of the victims are women.

Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik told NBC 4 that the video of the robbery at Capitol South should be “an eye-opener” for riders that such incidents can happen at any time and anywhere on the system. He reminded riders to be aware of their surroundings.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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Dana Hedgpeth · March 25