If a thug wants to steal your cellphone right out of your hands, he’s more likely to pair up.
Cops are worried about a spike in attacks defined as swarmings, involving two or more suspects, which are up 35% versus this time last year, said Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Mike Haarbosch from the robbery unit.
And it’s bad in the high traffic downtown/Byward Market/Sandy Hill area, “that’s a trouble spot for us,” he said.
West of the Rideau Canal, it’s “actually down a little bit this year, over last.”
By contrast, in the east and south ends, “it’s up significantly,” said Haarbosch.
Numbers have doubled from a year ago.
“It’s a big area,” he said.
By contrast, city wide, as of June 17, “our personal robberies — that’s one-on-one or with one suspect — they’re down 11%,” compared to this time last year, said Haarbosch.
Thugs are after cash and electronics.
Three months ago, cops had their hands full with ‘iRobbers’ targeting transit riders engrossed in their handheld devices.
But cops came down hard, netting nearly 10 arrests “of a significant nature” in the last 60 days.
“There were a whole lot of young offenders,” Haarbosch said.
Cell phones have been coveted since the latest iPhone came out.
“In the latter part of last year and the early part of this year, there was certainly a demand there that was driving that,” said Haarbosch.
Victims fit the same bill.
“It’s typically the younger people that are carrying the devices that are being sought,” said Haarbosch.
It was good news to cops during a two-day crackdown on OC Transpo buses and stations earlier this month, they didn’t encounter any swarmings, said Staff Sgt. Roley Campbell.
But they got lucky that day. Campbell refers to an incident last month in Orleans.
“The poor kid gets punched in the eye and he has to go to the hospital with a bleeding eye. Yeah, it was bad, and for what? A cell phone,” said Campbell.
To reduce their risk of injury, police are encouraging people to turn over what’s being demanded.
Fairs held in mall parking lots are also a hot spot for thugs since there’s a large volume of young people.
“And certainly, our officers will be out there looking at things like that,” said Haarbosch.
The iPhone 5 is set to launch this fall.
ROBBERY vs THEFT
“For a robbery, there’s got to be some element of violence to it, so either a threat of violence or actual violence,” said Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Mike Haarbosch.
During a theft, “they’ll just come running up, approach somebody from behind and simply grab a phone out of their hands, and they don’t actually even make physical contact with the person.”
Police warn that line can easily be crossed, depending on the victim’s response or if the suspect’s getaway is delayed.
“For instance, somebody grabbing somebody’s purse and they hang onto the purse and they get into a struggle and then it starts to escalate — it may have escalated from what may have been a theft into a robbery,” he said.