iPods a frequent target on public transportation

Thefts of iPods, especially on public-transportation vehicles, is a frequent problem that police and local transit agencies say they are working to combat.

This week, police officers said they apprehended a would-be robber who tried to flee after snatching someone’s iPod on the N-Judah train. It was midmorning when the suspect approached the victim, a young man, and grabbed his iPod. The thief also tried unsuccessfully to seize the victim’s wallet and cell phone, but after scuffling for a few moments with the victim, took off from the train. Given a description of the assailant, officers found the suspect, who gave up the iPod without incident and was subsequently charged with robbery.

More iPods — which range in price from $49 for a basic model to $474 for a device with a lot of digital storage space — are lost to thieves and never found.

“Just like any other situation, we remind people to be aware of their surroundings,” said Lt. Doug Groshong of the Taraval Police Station, the station responsible for tracking down Wednesday’s robbery suspect. “Sometimes people are listening to their iPods instead of paying attention to what’s going on around them.”

BART has reacted to the thefts by sending out passenger notices and posting bulletins on their electronic signs, reminding riders to be on the lookout for people targeting their iPods, spokesman Linton Johnson said.

The BART bulletin reminds passengers that iPod thefts are crimes of opportunity, made possible because of the noticeable white ear buds that are synonymous with the portable music players. As a way to prevent being a target, BART advises riders to eschew the standard white ear plugs in favor or something more discreet.

Muni officials say they have cut down on iPod thefts by working with the Police Department to set up crime stings on transit vehicles. The department also has set up a program to specifically educate schoolchildren about the importance of being mindful of their environment while listening to their music.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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