Local organizations are warning people to watch their laptops, cell phones, purses and pockets when they go for a cup of coffee.
"Several times over the past two weeks we have received reports of thefts at coffee shops," the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance wrote in an email Sunday night. Stolen items include a laptop and a purse, the group said.
"The thieves are very fast and work in pairs or groups so they can make quick getaways."
On Friday, the Fourth Ward Alliance emailed a report of a Nov. 23 theft at in the Midtown Promenade shopping center.
"I was pick-pocketed," the victim said, by a teenager. "He sat next to me for 15 minutes or so before receiving a phone call and abruptly leaving with my wallet. He promptly used my card at Taco Bell ... and there's also a $96 MARTA charge. I filed a police report and canceled my credit cards."
It's not so shocking thieves target the high-dollar items found in coffee shops. But alarming is many devices are being stolen from people as they use them.
The Old 4th Ward Patrol reports a recent increase in such crimes.
"Mobile phones have been yanked out of people’s hands while they are talking on them," the group said in an email circulated around Midtown.
So are laptops, the neighborhood patrol says. "We have seen a number of reports where the criminal simply walks up and grabs the laptop and runs off. We have also seen reports where the criminal will sit at the table next to the victim for 10 or 15 minutes, and then grab the laptop and run off."
How can it be so easy?
People are not paying attention, which "creates the opportunity for the criminal to get close enough to you to quickly grab the device from your hands and run away, often into a getaway car parked nearby that speeds off," the patrol said.
Here are a few tips to protect yourself from theft, courtesy of the Old 4th Ward Patrol:
- The best way to avoid being a victim of this is to not bring your laptop or tablet to a coffee shop (or other public places) and minimize the use of your mobile phone. But if you must use them, try to be aware of who is around you and where you are sitting.
- Never leave your laptop on the table at a public place no matter how quickly you will return. A criminal can grab your laptop and run out much quicker.
- Don’t put your mobile phone on the table next to you in a public place. Keep it out of sight in your pocket or purse.
- Don’t use earphones while working on your laptop in a public place or listen to music on your phone while walking around town. You are more vulnerable when you can't hear what's going on around you.
- Write down the serial numbers of all your electronics and keep that information in a safe place. If your device is stolen, file a police report immediately and get the serial number information to APD. Police can alert pawn shops, which can help lead to an arrest if your item is brought in. Serial numbers also help identify stolen items recovered by officers.
- Don’t leave these items or anything else in your car!
- If you are a victim of this crime, CALL 911 immediately and file a report. APD needs to know what is going on so that resources can be allocated to combat the problem.