As We See It

Invasion of the iPhone snatchers: ‘apple picking’ epidemic hits Vegas

The “Apple picking” problem is growing in Las Vegas, but it might be worse if we had better public transit.
Illustration by Kristian Hammerstad

“Apple picking” is trendy. Not the kind involving wooden baskets and fruit trees—the kind involving opportunistic thieves snatching iPhones and iPads in public places.

A video warning posted by Las Vegas Metro Police last week reenacts the recent rash of “iCrime.” Unwitting citizens are talking and texting (i.e. oblivious to their surroundings) right before their devices get “picked.” According to the video, a team of detectives had arrested two crews at that point involved in a total of 37 events. One detective says, “... as fast as we can put them in jail there’s more events popping up.” And Metro asserts each stolen iPhone can be sold to “shady” local stores, no questions asked, for up to $300.

While the problem is serious and growing, it might be worse if we had better public transit. Similar stories in cities such as New York and Chicago point to subways and light-rail systems as prime targets. The Wall Street Journal’s Rolfe Winkler wrote in July of getting his jaw broken at a Brooklyn subway stop when he chased the thugs who’d just snatched his date’s iPad. He reports that major network carriers are working together on a national registry of blacklisted ID numbers for stolen devices, such that service could be denied. And he cites Apple’s “Find My iPhone” app, which can erase data remotely and map the phone’s location, ominously adding, “… a smart thief can simply turn off the stolen device—or wipe it clean of apps—to prevent being tracked.”

I love my iPhone. It makes elevator rides way less awkward. But its slick mobility comes with vulnerability to identity thieves I can’t see and property thieves right under my nose. I’d tweet about my exasperation, but it just doesn’t seem worth the risk.

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