Detective Romero from the Wilshire Robbery Division reached out to TNN and asked us to alert our readers to a rise in cell phone robberies in our community. In the last month there have been a rash of cell phone snatches along Crenshaw Blvd. from Venice up to Pico.
Det. Romero wanted our readers to be very cautious about advertising the possession of an expensive phone. Samsung Galaxy 6 phones are especially popular with the criminal element as are any large phones. He explained that victims were often sitting at a bus stop using their cell when a thief would suddenly appear, grab it, and run. He warned against people being distracted as they over-focus on their phones, completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. Indeed, this reporter witnessed a woman pushing a baby carriage while completely engrossed in texting on her phone. She was unaware that she had begun to cross the exit/entrance of the shopping mall as a car turned into the entrance. A quick shout woke her up. She also would have been a perfect victim for a cell phone thief.
Det. Romero explained the finer points of identifying the different levels of the crime. If the phone costs under $950 and is simply snatched out of your hand it is considered a 'grand theft person’, which is a misdemeanor so there is not much to deter a young thief from giving it a shot. But if there is a struggle or the phone costs above that amount, it becomes a felony, a much more serious crime. Once a phone is grabbed it will be taken to a disreputable cell phone store where it will be refurbished and sold to willing overseas customers.
Det. Romero also encouraged anyone witnessing a cell phone grab to allow themselves to become a part of the investigation and prosecution.
“We need eye witnesses because the DA often won’t prosecute if it’s just the victim ID’ing the suspect. They need either eye witnesses or video corroboration.”
All the more reason for thieves to target people who are in isolated areas. Walking a dog and texting on a quiet residential street is probably not a good idea. More than one cell phone thief has been released because of lack of corroboration. If it happens to you, try to get the names and numbers of the people who witnessed it.
Good news for law enforcement: Starting this July, all smart phones sold in California will have to have a “kill switch”. This law was passed in Sacramento in 2014. The switch allows the authorized user to disable the phone, making it useless to the thief. California State Senator Mark Leno, the sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement: “Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.”
Established in August of 2008 by writer, artist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.