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How to protect yourself from "Apple Picking"

Posted at: 03/04/2013 5:16 PM
Updated at: 03/04/2013 5:44 PM
By: Christine VanTimmeren

There's an alarming new trend News10NBC wants to tell you about called "Apple Picking.” It has nothing to do with the fruit, instead, it's referring to the theft of Apple products like iPhones and iPads.

Police say thieves are stealing products right out of people's hands as they walk down the street. This happening across the country, but Rochester Police say this kind of thing is happening here too.

Rochester Police say last year they had 254 reported larcenies or robberies involving iPhone or iPads. They only had 87 in 2011. Not all of those thefts occurred while people were actually using their phones.

Assunta Wilson said, “If someone can come up and snatch something from out of your hand, that says something about the times we're living in.”

Call it the purse snatchings of the 21st century. Only these thieves are more interested in your 200-dollar iPhone than they are in your cash.

Chief James Sheppard, Rochester Police, said, “Think of it as walking down the street with a $100 bill in your hand. Who would do that? No one. So why would you do that with your cell phone?”

And it's happening across the country.

Chief James Sheppard says in the past year, they've noticed a significant rise in cell phone thefts in the city and these thieves mean business. They'll snatch it right out of your hand mid-text.

Chief James Sheppard said, “A lot of times people are on the phone when it occurs. Somebody runs up and snatches it out of their hand or knocks them to the ground and takes their phone.”

Chief Sheppard says you can download tracking apps on your phone to help find it after it's stolen and the police will help you get it back, but thieves these days are finding ways around even that.

Chief Sheppard said, “There was a time where we could find where that phone was taken and now when they're taken they know what to do immediately so we can't follow through with the technology.”

The chief says there's a huge black market for cell phones specifically iPhones.
The phones can be wiped for $50 and sold for $100 to $200 and the targets here in downtown Rochester are college students.

Chief Sheppard said, “We have a lot of students downtown and they like to show off their new products.”

Zoel Antonetti said, “When you're texting on the go or talking on the go you kind of aren't paying attention to your surroundings.”

Wilson said, “They're so glued to the phone nowadays and maybe that's why they're targeting it because its' so easy to catch somebody on the phone.”

So what do you do to make sure you're not a victim? Obviously, pay attention if you're walking and using your phone on a busy street. If you can, keep your phone in your purse or pocket until you get to your destination.

Rochester Police say so far this year they've had 44 reported iPhone thefts and most of them have occurred on the city's southeast side or right downtown.     

Officials from Verizon and AT&T say they hadn't heard about “Apple Picking” before and say they haven't heard customers coming in talking about it. But they do say they are working on putting together a stolen cell phone database that all networks can access that shows them which phones were stolen, so they can't be re-activated if someone where to bring it in.