METRO targets smartphone thefts

Crimes doubled on buses, rail in 2012

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Some police are calling it the "high-tech" version of purse snatching, and it's on the rise in Houston.

Instead of handbags, crooks are after your smartphone. METRO police said the crime doubled last year at its bus stops and rail stations. In 2012, METRO reported 104 cellphone thefts and robberies. That's up from 50 crimes in 2011.  

It's easy to see the problem. Take a look at almost any bus stop or any METRORail station and you'll see potential victims with targets on their back. Riders are holding smartphones, tablets and other high-tech devices and everyone can see it. 

METRO police said that's the problem.

"It's like holding out $200 in cash," said Victor Rodriguez, METRO's chief of police.

METRO police are warning riders both on the bus and on the rail to be more aware. With announcements at rail stations, METRO is pushing riders to be aware with the "Outta Sight" campaign. Posters at rail stations urge riders to keep their expensive cellphones in their pockets, especially when standing at a rail or bus stop.

"It reminds our patrons that these phones are very expensive and very lucrative targets," Rodriguez said. "When not in use, keep them out of sight."

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