Up for Grabs

February 15, 2013

As I headed into the Union Station Metro stop the other day, the announcement screen was scrolling through a warning about the recent uptick in phone thefts. You’d think that would be a good way to remind riders to pay attention to their valuable electronic devices — except no one was reading it. They were all too busy paying attention to their valuable electronic devices.

I might have been fiddling with my phone, too, if I hadn’t just learned that there are one or two snatchings a day, on average, in the transit system. I’ve generally felt confident in my security plan for my iDevices: Hold on tight with both hands and glance around every few seconds to give anyone inching too close the stink eye. (That’s right, little old lady, I’m watching you.) And I’m extra cautious when I’m near a door — all that opening and closing makes a getaway easier.

With the release of these new Metro stats, I’m thinking it’s time to wise up. I’m still a target, and so is anyone who’s checking the latest score, responding to that client or triumphing in “Plants vs. Zombies.” And despite the fact that Metro is using undercover police officers to round up perpetrators, it falls on us as individuals to be more alert.

After spending a morning chit-chatting with riders, I realized there’s a problem with this plan. No one seems to be taking the threat seriously.

“I’ve lived in D.C. my whole life, and I can assess a situation,” 42-year-old Nathaniel Beers told me as he quickly stuffed his phone into his coat. (I’m guessing he had assessed that this reporting thing was a ruse.) “I’m very cautious,” Julie Cole, 36, said after I’d asked her about juggling both an iPhone and a BlackBerry. And Oliver Thomas, 43, wasn’t worried about his tablet. “There’s a lot of military on here,” he said, gesturing around the Red Line train.

A gray-haired gentleman who was tapping out something on his iPhone laughed at my questions. “I think that only happens to people not paying attention to the world around them,” he said, urging me to talk to people my own age.

Admittedly, younger people often had the most blase attitude. Sandra Rivas, 25, looked perplexed when I asked her whether she worries about keeping her iPhone out on the train. “I always have it out,” she said.

And 25-year-old Abby Buzzas had thought about security for her Samsung Galaxy. It just isn’t that secure. “I’m probably really bad about it,” she said. “I should be robbed.”

Given the turnover rate of technology, a 27-year-old named Leila said being robbed could be a good thing: “I have an old phone, so it’d be an excuse to get a new one.”

She might get her chance sooner than she thinks.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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