Richmond RCMP issues cell phone warning

Richmond RCMP is warning people with cellphones especially new generation smartphones to take extra care in the city when using their device in public.

Thefts, sometimes brazenly snatched from the hand of owner using violence, are on the up in the city, with 35 such robberies reported since January.

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In some instances, suspects have simply grabbed the phone from the hands of the victim as they walk by, while in other cases, suspects have distracted the victims at which point the phone is stolen, said Richmond RCMPs Cpl. Sherrdean Turley.

A distraction technique that has been used, according to the police, is whereby the suspect asks the victim for the time.

When the victim pulls out their cell phone to check the time, the suspect grabs the phone and runs off.

Luckily, said Turley, the majority of the offences have not included physical violence, however there have been instances where physical violence has been used.

However, there are precautions you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim:

Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to where you are and who is around you. Walk with confidence with your head up, not staring down at the ground. Dont let yourself become so consumed by your cell phone or personal electronic device that you lose touch of what is going on around you. Being aware of your surroundings is always important, regardless of whether or not you are using a cell phone.

Trust your instincts. If you feel like you are being followed and feel threatened, make eye contact to show youre suspicious and cross the street or enter a business that is close by. This shows that you wont be taken by surprise and puts you in a more populated area that will likely deter a criminal as the chance of being detected is higher.

Walk with someone whenever possible, in well-traveled and well-lit areas, avoiding short cuts through alleys, construction sites and parking lots. Dont stop to talk to strangers and have a plan of action in mind in the event that you are confronted; where will you go and what will you do if a dangerous situation presents itself.

If possible, dont advertise the fact that youre carrying a cell phone or personal electronic device. Carry them as discretely as possible and replace them in your hiding spot immediately after using them.

In the event that you are confronted by someone, dont resist. Hand over your cell phone or belongings demanded as quickly as possible and try to disengage from the confrontation as soon as possible.

Another good idea, said Turley, is to use a pass code to protect information that is stored on your smart phone. Information on your smart phone can be used for identity theft or property crimes. Addresses and phone numbers stored on smart phones can be used to determine if homes are vacant for break and enters to occur while access to applications such as email and Facebook can access personal information. Never store pin numbers or alarm codes in the notes application of your smart phone as this is easily accessible as well.

For more information on neighborhood crime info go to www.richmond.ca/crime.

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