Ingleside police officers handed out flyers and brochures at a Muni station Friday. They want smartphone owners to be aware thieves may be watching them, ready to snatch their devices.
"Where it used to be the gold chains, now it's the phones," San Francisco Police Sgt. Jason Sawyer said.
Surveillance video of a snatch-and-go incident on muni shows a man watching woman while she's focused only on her smartphone, paying no attention to her surroundings. As the bus stops, the man snatches the phone from her hands and runs off the bus.
Police say half of all robberies in San Francisco are cellphone related. Many happen on Muni where people aren't paying attention.
"Honestly, I usually have my phone like out all the time, pass the time looking at it," Muni rider Natalie Hauser said.
Others say they're finally getting the message.
"I usually keep it in my pocket or in my purse and I have the cross body purse, so it's always close to me," Muni rider Kelsey Walker said.
This type of robbery has also increased on BART trains. In some cases, the owner of the phone has been pepper sprayed.
San Francisco police say the phones are easily sold for several hundred dollars. The new iPhone 5 is the hottest seller.
"There are some companies where you can take the stolen phone, walk right in and change it into your name," Sawyer said.
Police say many incidents happen near Seventh and Market streets, a high crime area.