Cellphone thefts increase in D.C.

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Cellphone thefts are up in the District, but there is something being done to try and deter thieves. There has been a national effort to stop the black market for stolen phones by creating a black list. D.C. police hope it will help reduce the number of the crimes.

Thefts involving personal electronic devices happened 604 times inside the Metro system in 2013, up from 424 cases in 2012. But that’s a fraction of the total picture. D.C. police say city-wide, robberies dropped last year, but phone robberies jumped 6.1 percent and phone thefts surged nearly 20 percent.

Chief Cathy Lanier says many thefts are preventable.

“If I can just get people to pay a little more attention to where they set their phone or leave it in their jacket, hanging on the back of a chair, just a large number getting stolen,” she says.

With the crime on the rise, Chief Lanier has been leading proponents of a cell phone black list that aims to keep phones reported stolen from being reactivated.

“There still is a huge black market opportunity here. Until that starts to dry up because of the black list, you have to pay attention," Lanier says.

Metro continues to urge riders to be vigilant with their devices, even putting up billboards warning of the danger. A few trends stand out in the Metro data: the vast majority of the crimes happen on the train or platform. Last year, 69 percent of the victims were women, and thieves overwhelmingly prefer the iPhone, 71 percent of the devices snatched.