iPhones were the primary targets in a string of robberies that occurred in the Georgetown area last weekend.
Residents reported their iPhones were stolen from them as they were walking down the street, with at least one victim suffering severe injuries. The series of crimes has led local authorities to caution iPhone users from displaying their pricey gadgets.
The weekend’s thefts took place on the 1400 block of 31st Street, the corner of 29th and R Street, and on the 1500 block of 19th Street, off Dupont Circle.
Two additional similar incidents occurred on Sept. 22 and 24 at 21st and P Streets, according to an email from Metropolitan Police Department Commander Matthew Klein. In these two instances, Klein said the robberies were reported to be executed in similar manners.
“In both cases, the suspect approached the victims and engaged them in conversation before snatching their iPhones and running away,” Klein said. “During the robbery last night, the suspect asked the victim if he could use the phone to make a call, but when the victim offered to dial for him, he snatched the phone and ran.”
Department of Public Safety Associate Director Joseph Smith said he saw a clear motive in the robberies.
“iPhones have become very popular of late – a cultural icon – and there is a high perceived value of them,” Smith wrote in an email. “In a perfect world, we should be able to stroll down the road without fear of such victimization. But this is the stark reality, and we must prepare accordingly.”
Smith said that DPS has increased its presence along the campus periphery with foot, bicycle and car patrols, and has partnered with Residence Life, Student Affairs, Georgetown University Student Association, the Student Safety Advisory Board and others to increase communication about public safety to students.
Commissioner Ed Solomon, chair of the safety committee of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission2E, said the ANC also held a safety committee meeting about the situation.
“We had [the meeting] to make sure that MPD is applying as many resources as possible,” Solomon said. “The MPD is taking this very seriously.”
Klein informed the community about the Sept. 22 and 24 thefts and warned pedestrians to be cautious while walking at night. He said that police officers are currently working to follow leads, and that the crimes may be connected. The suspect in both cases is described as a black male of medium height.
In response to the incidents, Smith advised students to stay cognizant of their surroundings.
“A good part of this awareness is not having divided attention. Take the earphones out of your iPhones and keep [it] out of sight,” he said. “Criminals must have some indication that you possess an iPhone to target you for it, so not having any overt visual cues for them to pick up on is a good start.”
Smith also advised students to walk in pairs or groups and to find a location that provides a degree of safety and is not obviously visible from the street if a student must use his or her iPhone.
iPhone owner Katie Rigby (COL ’12) said she has been exercising extra caution in the wake of these incidents.
“Since I heard about the thefts of iPhones in the area I have stopped walking around with my phone visible,” Rigby said. “I try not to make calls or text if I am walking by myself.”