By Sandra McNeill

DETROIT (WWJ) – They call it “apple picking,” and the bold crime has Detroit police so concerned they’re using a new approach to combat it.

Detroit cops are passing out fliers to warn residents to keep an eye on their iPhones amid a flurry of recent incidents of thieves snatching the mobile devices right out of owners’ hands.

Police say iPhones and iPads seem to be particularly attractive to thieves who find them easy to sell. On the flier, Detroit police warn that taking out a phone in public is just like flashing thousands of dollars in cash.

They recommend that people keep their devices out of sight when not in use.

How many such thefts have occurred?

Detroit Police Sgt. LaShanna Potts says there have been hundreds of reports of apple picking in downtown Detroit, and many more in cities nationwide.

“What’s happening is, people are targeting downtown areas — urban settings,” Potts told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Sandra McNeil. “And what they’re doing is they’re waiting for people to either start texting on their cell phone, or talking on their cell phone; and they’re either snatching it out of your hand — actually physically robbing people — or snatching your purse to get the phone.”

“Mostly they’re targeting groups,” Potts added.

“So, like say for instance you have something like lunch hour, 12 o’clock, down at Campus Martius. You’ve got a group of people — young, professionals, and you look around and probably nine out of 10 have their cell phone out,” Potts said.

Some of these robbers are armed, and some are not. “There really is no M.O. to kind of watch for,” Potts said.

Police also suggest that iPhone owners download a GPS tracking app called “Find my iPhone.” But they say that if your iPhone is stolen, don’t use the app to try to get it back. Instead, call Detroit police at 313-596-1300.

“We have successfully recovered several iPhones and iPads recently and have been able to return them to their owners and arrest the thieves,” said Detroit Police James Craig, in a statement printed on the flier.

[View a copy of the flier]

Dearborn police on Tuesday issued a similar warning to residents.  Authorities in that city say, in some cases, thieves ask to use another person’s iPhone, then run or drive away with it.

To download the “Find my iPhone” app, select the App Store application on the phone; choose the search option at the bottom of the screen; select the search bar at the top of the screen and type “Find My iPhone”; chose the “free” option; and select the “install app” option.


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