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Gang Targeting Random NYers For Cell Phones

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Talk and walk at your own risk.

A group of robbers in Manhattan is targeting people talking on their cell phones, sometimes in broad daylight.

CBS 2's Don Dahler has what you can do to not become a victim of the cell phone snatchers.

The NYPD is looking for the five men seen in surveillance videos. They are suspected of brazenly snatching the phones out of the hands of victims.

Over the past two months, five such robberies have occurred around Broadway and 110th Street, usually in the afternoon.

On any street in any borough, you see people with phones pressed to their ears, paying little attention to the world around them -- despite the fact that we all know better.

"I think you really shouldn't be walking and talking on a cell phone, to be honest with you," said Carolene George of Manhattan.

We've all done it -- and we still do it. You walk along, fully immersed in a conversation and you're completely oblivious to everything that's happening around you. That's bad enough, but you wouldn't walk around with hundreds of dollars just showing to the whole world, would you?

But that's in essence what you're doing. Those new smart phones are expensive.

"At least $300 to $600 per phone, yes," said Jason Armstrong of Harlem.

Armstrong said that makes for a tempting target.

"Sometimes somebody could come and grab your phone or take anything from you, because you're not paying attention to what's going on," Armstrong said.

"A cell phone is a device which causes you to split your concentration," said Frank Drake of Genesis Diversified Services.

Drake, a self-defense expert, is a 15-year veteran of the NYPD. He said your safest bet is simply to stay off the phone if you're walking somewhere.

"If you really have to be walking and talking you should be using a hands-free to at least free up your hands so you can look around and see where you're going," Drake said.

Drake said using an earpiece also allows you to keep the actual phone hidden.

Another reason to protect that smart phone is all the personal information you keep in them. If it's stolen you could become a victim of identity theft as well.

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