Smartphone thefts skyrocket at Richmond BART station


Richmond police are handing out fliers at that city's BART station Tuesday in an effort to stem the rise in smartphone thefts. In the past three months, the number of those thefts have skyrocketed.

Police are handing out leaflets in english and spanish and say to be aware of your surroundings and don't be distracted by your smartphone.

Smartphone robberies are an epidemic on the streets. Surveillance video captured one woman being mugged and robbed of her cellphone.

Richmond Police Lt. Andre Hill says the robbers can pick their victims easily.

"Usually they'll spot someone walking, being distracted with their cellphone, probably approached from the rear and grab their cellphone," Hill said.

These robberies of opportunity are also happening on public transportation.

One robbery was recorded by a security camera aboard a Muni bus in San Francisco. As the victims ride, robbers snatch their phone and run.

Now, it's happening at the Richmond BART station. It has become a magnet for the thieves.

"Since the beginning of the year, we've had 18 robberies near and around the Richmond BART station," Hill said.

Richmond police believe the robbers are targeting Hispanic BART riders because they know they're less likely to go to police.

"They may be reluctant to report such crimes because of language barriers or because they may be afraid of their status as far as being residents in this country," Hill said.

BART rider Henry Poscacio says he's heard that concern among people he knows.

"Sometimes they are afraid to report it to someone that they've been robbed because of their legal situation that they find themselves in," Poscacio said.

But Richmond police say they do not report undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes to federal authorities.

So they're making that special effort Tuesday by passing out cards to Latino BART passengers, hoping that victims will not be afraid to come forward.

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