LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Metro officials are warning passengers about a recent rash of smartphone and tablet thefts that have occurred on trains.

Metro has experienced a 47 percent increase in cell phone thefts during the first half of this year, compared with the first half of 2011, Metro officials said.

“Most of the attacks are not armed robberies but are grabs of surprise, with suspects taking phones from unaware passengers who may be talking on them at that moment,” officials said in a statement about the crimes which have become a nationwide trend.

There have been 168 phone theft reports taken since the first of the year, resulting in 84 arrests, according to Metro.

Officials say most crimes have occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and then spike again around 9 p.m.

In order to avoid becoming a victim, Metro and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recommends the following:

– Pay particular attention getting on and off trains and buses. That’s when thieves can quickly grab a phone and dash either onto or off of a departing train or bus.

-Stash phones and iPods away when arriving at or departing a station.

– Sit or stand in an area that remains visible to the public and other transit riders and employees.

-Make a mental note of where the emergency notification buttons are located in the stations and on trains.

Should you become a victim or witness a crime, try to note the train car number (posted on the outside of trains near the car corners and posted inside on the doors leading to train cars in front and in back), the time, the station and the line, officials said.

Crimes can be reported to LASD Transit Services Bureau at (323) 563-5000.


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