AG: 'People are literally dying for their cell phones'

Robberies involving cell phones on the rise, says Kathleen Kane

Published: Jan 31 2014 05:36:15 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 31 2014 06:26:26 PM EST
AG People are literally dying for their cell phones

It is something most people carry around all day, everyday and it could make you a target.

"I sleep with my cell phone. I use the bathroom with my cell phone," said Oscar Alvardo, of New Jersey.

"Every day, all day. I do not talk on the phone that much but definitely texting or using the Internet," said Laura Shaeffer, of Philadelphia.

Cell phones have become a necessity that some just cannot live without.

"I would be lost, very disappointed. I would not know what to do without my cell phone," said Alvardo.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane warns that cell phone robberies are on the rise. In fact, she said 30 to 40 percent of all robberies nationwide are cell phone-related.

"People are literally dying for their cell phones. This has become a new wave of crime that we have to solve so that people are safer," Kane said.

One Pizzariffic delivery driver learned the hard way. She was robbed at knife-point in early January in the 300 block of Minor Street in Reading.

"Within seconds, when I looked away to tell him the total, he held a knife to me, wanted all the money in my pocket and pushed me to the ground and demanded my cell phone," said the driver, who did not want to be identified.

She said she immediately gave into his demands out of fear for her life.

"I would have given him anything he wanted. I have three kids at home. It is a very helpless feeling," she said.

The delivery driver was one of 118 cell phone robbery victims in Reading over the last year, but Philadelphia is the number one city in the country for cell phone thefts.

Kane said cell phone thefts happen most frequently on public transportation lines like SEPTA.

Smartphones can be sold for up to $2,000 on the black market. That is why Kane wants manufacturers to install a kill switch, which would make cell phones worthless.

"That is a very important deterrent. Once we have reduced the demand for these smartphones, then we will decrease the violent crime and hopefully wipe it right out," said Kane.

So how can you protect yourself? You would not whip out a roll of money in public, so why flaunt your phone? Kane said you should keep it safely tucked away in highly populated areas and always be aware of identity theft if you store personal information.

If you are the victim of identify theft, you can find some helpful tips on the attorney general's website.