Rash of tech device thefts continue unabated

At least five people were robbed of their cell phones in just over seven hours on city streets Wednesday night and Thursday morning, cops said.

The victims ranged in age from 18 to 55, and the robberies occurred in various city locations between 7:30 p.m. and 2:45 a.m., police said.

One victim was punched during the course of the robbery, another was pushed, a third was chucked to the ground and a 25-year-old woman had her cell phone swiped from behind as she talked on it, cops said.

The robberies occurred at or near the intersections of Golden Gate and Pierce streets; Hayes and Lyon streets; Hyde and Ellis streets; Sixth and Market streets; and Post Street between Larkin and Polk streets, police said.

Cops arrested suspects in three of the five incidents, police said.

The robberies continue a rash of street thefts in The City targeting cell phones, music players and other valuable electronic devices.

“It’s just like having diamonds,” San Francisco police Sgt. Troy Dangerfield said Wednesday. “You wouldn’t wear your diamonds everywhere.”

On Tuesday, a 16-year-old boy in the Bayview district was viciously beaten by seven thugs after refusing to give up his Apple iPod.

The robberies are occurring in daylight as well as at night. During a bustling weekday in the Financial District last month, a man was punched and robbed of his phone while texting on the sidewalk.

“People are not paying attention,” Dangerfield said.

Once upon a time, tennis shoes — like Air Jordan’s — were the popular theft items, Dangerfield said. Phones, music players and e-readers have taken their place, and they’re more valuable and easier to resell, he said.

They’re also easier to steal, police said.

“Headphones and ear buds reduce your ability to hear and distract you from potential dangers.” Mission Station Capt. Greg Corrales said in a statement Tuesday.

A thief will sit back, wait till you’re not paying attention, and swipe it from you before dashing off, Dangerfield said.

Technology has emerged to track down phone thieves. One alleged thief is facing felony charges after the iPhone he swiped from a woman was being used to test a new, real-time GPS tracking application. Cops said they traced the phone to the suspect before making the arrest.

But that technology won’t always guarantee that police will be able to bust the person who stole your property, Dangerfield said. Your best bet is to avoid being the target of a robbery in the first place, he said.

“Avoid displaying or using them in public, especially on Muni,” Corrales said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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