Since mid-September, Stamford Police have been dealing with a wave of incidents in which teens on bikes are stealing cellphones from women who are talking on them while they walk down the street in the area of Downtown Stamford.
Starting on September 19th, women have had their cellphones snatched right out of their hands on 18 separate occasions. Lt. Diedrich Hohn believes at least 13 of these incidents can be attributed to the same two suspects.
On two occasions, the incident turned violent and the victim was punched in the face during the theft. Hohn said the incidents are technically classified as larcenies until the victim offers even the slightest resistance, at which point, it becomes a robbery.
A basic perimeter of the incidents stretches to Atlantic Street, Main Street, Washington Boulevard, Pulaski Street and toward the train station and the upper South End.
The most recent incident occurred as Election Day was winding down. at approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday, a woman walking alone in the area of Pacific and Dock streets had her phone snatched out of her hand while she was talking on it, Hohn said.
"She was just walking down the street and two males relieved her of her iPhone," Hohn said. "It was the same story as the others. Two guys, all covered up. We tried tracking it, but it was already wiped."
Hohn describes them as a pair of black teens, about 14 or 15 years old, wearing hoodies and riding BMX-style bikes. Their MO appears to be coming up behind women walking around downtown who aren't paying attention to their surroundings and snatching the phones right out of their hands.
The suspects are taking the phones and wiping them of all internal information before police are able to track down where the phones are being taken.Hohn said in one incident in which they were able to respond quickly, they were in the middle of following the phone when it shut off.
"New York has a task force just to deal with these iPhone issues. Boston has a task force as well," Hohn said. "It's an easy crime to commit. And it's easy to reset the phone and then sell it. Yo a young kid making a quick $100 bucks, it's an easy turn-around."
Hohn said patrols have been stepped up in the problem areas during the typical target times, which is late afternoon to early evening. He said they've seen improvements in incidents while patrols are heightened, but they don't necessarily always have the man power to add extra patrols to the area.
"All last week we had Bureau of Criminal Investigations crews out here patrolling and the incidents dropped off," Hohn said. "We didn't have the guys last night and it happened. They're very aware of police presence. We've just got so many women walking around with their iPhones out and they're not paying attention."