More people use personal electronics than ever before, which unfortunately means that more of those items are being stolen than ever before. Robberies have increased seven percent since last year in Bed-Stuy, according to the NYPD.
Last Wednesday, at the , Deputy Inspector Peter Bartoszek reiterated this finding. He noted that although crime overall has decreased, personal thefts have risen lately.
"One big issue that is going on right now is larcenies and robberies of electronics, aka cell phones," he said. "It’s not just a problem in the 79th Precinct; it’s really a citywide phenomenon."
Detective Williams Jenkins, community affairs officer for the 81st Precinct in Bed-Stuy, agreed with Bartoszek's assessment. He noted that the crimes have been on the rise since winter, and with summer here, he expects it to keep rising.
According to Jenkins personal theft is a crime of opportunity, and that simply by paying attention to surroundings, Bed-Stuy residents can avoid becoming a victim. He said that one of the most frequent places to be attacked is coming out of the subway because people often take their smartphones out to check emails or listen to voicemails.
Jenkins explained that simply keeping a phone hidden will keep most thieves away. He added that people should try and walk in pairs whenever possible, and that sticking to well-lit streets is a good idea too.
Bartoszek echoed this sentiment at the council meeting. "When you’re burying your head into a phone, you’re not cognizant of what’s going on around you. Please pay attention. Do not text and walk."
Jenkins mentioned that most people think teenagers are the primary thieves in these types of crimes (that can be anywhere from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the value of the items taken) but that's not always true. He added that teens typically aren't the victims, mostly because they know what to do to prevent the crime.
Teenagers seem to agree. Jacob Phillips and Stephon Westbrooks, a sophomore and junior, respectively, at the Bedford Community Arts and Media High School on Willoughby Avenue, say that while they haven't witnessed personal theft crimes, they know how it happens.
The 16-year-old Phillips explained, "If you're walking down the street and you're texting, you're not aware of your surroundings." Westbrooks added, "You know, people talking on their phone, standing in one spot, that's an easy robbery."
As if they were both cops from the 79th and 81st, they kept highlighting the need for people to pay attention to what they are doing to avoid having their phones or mp3 players stolen. "Just be aware," said Phillips.