Study: Philly #1 In Smartphone Thefts; SEPTA Police Crack Down

Study: Philly #1 In Smartphone Thefts; SEPTA Police Crack Down

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PHILADELPHIA -

Melissa Clearmont knows what it would be like to have her smartphone stolen.

"A big pain. A big, big, big one," she told FOX 29. She's also the first to tell you that she's a prime target.

"I'm the one that always walks around with my phone in my hand like you just caught me. I'm always looking down reading an email or something. It's kind of scary to know," she said.

A new study says Philadelphia ranks number one nationwide in smart phone thefts and losses. The thieves can hit anywhere in the city. SEPTA says one hot spot for smart phone thefts is the Church Street station on the Market Frankford El.

"It's a vicious crime, but it shouldn't be, said SEPTA rider Anthony Bell, as he waited for a train on Thursday.

"We're throwing a lot at the problem," says SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel. "You commit a theft at SEPTA, we're gonna make you famous."

Septa launched a crack-down on smartphone thefts using a study that pinpoints hot spots, along with 12,000 SEPTA surveillance cameras and tactical police teams. But no one's claiming victory just yet.

"I'm actually surprised we're worse than other cities because right now, at least for SEPTA,  we're declining. Now I'm not calling that a victory because it's a fluctuating number," Nestel said.

Nestel suggests that smartphone owners download apps like "find my iPhone" so police can track their phones if stolen. His other advice, look up when your bus or train is slowing down.

"Poke that head up, out of the turtle shell for a second, and take a look around," he explained. "That's the time it happens."

SEPTA riders like Anthony Bell say that's some advice they'll gladly take.

"I watch my surroundings and I do what I gotta do to protect myself," he said.  

Clearmont said,"I don't want to pay $200 to replace my phone."

Smartphone thefts are down single digits on SEPTA. Philadelphia police don't track those numbers, but they are doing several things to combat the theft and resale of smartphones.

Finally, smartphone companies are reportedly working on a way to permanently shut a stolen or lost phone off, so it can't be re-sold.

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