New York(CBSNewYork) -- On the mean streets of New York it's no longer "give me your wallet." Now it's "give me your iPhone!"
Criminals in the city no longer want cold, hard, cash. Instead, they are in search of hand-held electronics like iPads, smartphones and MP3 players, according to a recent study by the NYPD.
Half of the 16,000 robberies in New York City in 2011 involved hand-held electronics, according to the study, which was ordered by NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Patrick Timlin.
"This makes electronics the single most stolen property type, surpassing even hard currency," says the report.
The most popular of the pilfered gadgets is the iPhone, which police say accounts for 70 percent of all phones stolen on the city's buses and subways.
The rest of the electronics included tablets, laptops and MP3 players.
Rafael Nobra of Ridgewood, Queens is one of thousands of New Yorkers who have had their devices stolen.
"It's a little frustrating, but what can you do -- bad luck, I guess," Nobra told CBS 2's Derricke Dennis. "All of a sudden, somebody just grabbed me and then the other guy came in and just snatched my phone away."
The NYPD said that the actual amount of stolen items is probably much worse, but that reporting of the thefts has been inhibited by archaic record keeping.
"We cannot identify what devices are stolen where, or at what times," the NYPD said in the report.
The problem has been compounded by a black market that traffics in stolen electronics. Police said that around the city there exists a network of pawn shops and bodegas that buy the stolen items from thieves and hock them both locally and abroad.
The NYPD is planning a multi-pronged approach to attack the problem.
First would come a push for legislation, suggested by Sen. Chuck Schumer, which would force cell phone companies to install technology that would remotely blacklist a stolen phone. The technology is currently being used in Europe, but American carriers have balked at implementing such measures due to their high cost.
A series of sting operations could be used to bust the bodegas where shop owners have been known to offer thieves up to $100 for stolen electronics.
Finally, a public awareness campaign which would include movie theater announcements and videos aired in subways, intended to teach citizens how to protect their property.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the plan, "a sound strategy, designed to suppress larcenies on several fronts simultaneously."
New Yorkers are far from oblivious to the increase in stolen electronics.
When asked about the thefts by 1010 WINS reporter Al Jones, New Yorker Ryan Higgins was not surprised.
1010 WINS' Al Jones Gets Reaction From New Yorkers
"You see people walking around the streets, they're texting, they got their iPod out. You don't even have to look for a wallet, you can just go up and steal it," Higgins said.
And Kate Woods added that New Yorkers may be particularly vulnerable in the evening.
"Especially at nighttime, too, because people don't realize that when they're on their iPhones at night people just aren't paying attention," said Woods.
Woods told Jones that five of her friends have had their iPhones stolen.
What steps will you be taking to protect your high-priced hand held? Let us know in the comments section below...
for more features.