These brazen incidents are part of a ubiquitous crime wave striking coast to coast. New York City Police report that more than 40 percent of all robberies now involve cellphones. And cellphone thefts in Los Angeles, which account for more than a quarter of all the city's robberies, are up 27 percent from this time a year ago, police said.
"This is your modern-day purse snatching," said longtime San Francisco Police Capt. Joe Garrity, who began noticing the trend here about two years ago. "A lot of younger folks seem to put their entire lives on these things that don't come cheap."
Thefts of cellphones— particularly the expensive do-it-all smartphones containing everything from photos and music to private e-mails and bank account statements— are costing consumers millions of dollars and sending law enforcement agencies and wireless carriers nationwide scrambling for solutions.