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iPhone related crime on the rise as smartphones gain popularity

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(CBS) NEW YORK - Last month, a woman was walking to her home in Queens, N.Y., when police say two people approached her from behind, grabbed her around her neck and took her iPhone, CBS New York reports. They allegedly threw her to the ground and fled the scene.

The incident is by no means uncommon. As iPhone sales surge, so does the number of crimes related to the popular device - in New York City and beyond.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, the theft of cell phones makes up 30 to 40 percent of all robberies nationwide.

In New York City, thefts of iPhones and iPads rose 44 percent through April of 2012, according to NYPD statistics, the New York Daily News reports. The city's website says mobile phones account for 81% of all electronic device thefts. The Chicago Tribune reports that police in the Windy City attribute an increase in robbery in 2011 to the theft of smartphones. In downtown Los Angeles, thefts of cellphones increased 32 percent in the first quarter of 2012, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In some cases, iPhone robberies have led to deaths. According to CBS New York, two men, 20-year-old Dominick Davis and 21-year-old Alejandro Campos, were arrested in April in the death of 26-year-old Hwang Yang, chef at the Museum of Modern Art. Yang had been walking home from the subway when he was confronted by a gunman, shot and robbed of his iPhone. The device later turned up on the online advertising site Craigslist, priced at $400.

And in July of this year, New York City police say they arrested 25-year-old Jasmine Diaz for fatally running down her 17-year-old boyfriend, Frankie Hernandez, after he dropped and broke her iPhone.

In Chicago, a 68-year-old church deacon named Sally Katona-King died in March 2011 after an iPhone thief knocked her down the stairs at the Fullerton L stop as he tried to get away, CBS Chicago reports. Then- 17-year-old Prince Watson was charged with first-degree murder in her death.

According to the station, police say there are more than 30 robberies of electronic devices on Chicago Transit Authority trains every month in the Belmont Area alone. Most of the thefts involve iPhones, which sell for over $300 on the black market.

Police in many metropolitan areas offer theft prevention tips warning people to remain aware of their surroundings, and the Federal Communications Commission is working with law enforcement and the largest wireless carriers to create a central database that will track stolen devices and prevent them from being reactivated. If a device is reported stolen, the carrier will be able to block it from being used again. They hope to introduce this system over the next 18 months.

  • Casey Glynn

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