Police nab teens possibly linked to cellphone thefts

By: Jessica Strachan | Southfield Sun | Published July 16, 2013

SOUTHFIELD — Following several reports of cellphone theft in the city — particularly two where young teens were targeted the same week by a group of suspects — police say they made arrests likely linked to the spree.

Shortly after 4 p.m. July 10, officers patrolling the area of Virginia and Paul Revere streets spotted an SUV matching the description of a suspect vehicle from an incident report two days prior.

Arrested were three Detroit males, ages 16, 15 and 14, according to Lt. Nick Loussia, of the Southfield Police Department.

“Our officers did an area check and were able to stop the vehicle and locate the stolen property in the vehicle,” he said. “They recovered several phones that had been reported stolen recently, and we believe that these suspects were involved in several of the cellphone thefts we’ve had in the city recently.”

One of the recent incidents reportedly occurred at around 9:20 p.m. July 5, when a 13-year-old boy rode his bike to a gas station in the area of 12 Mile and Evergreen and was allegedly approached by a vehicle containing up eight teen occupants.

According to the report, the suspects tried to snatch the boy’s iPhone, though he was able to escape on his bike and take a shortcut through the woods to get home. When he got into the subdivision, however, the males caught up to him and reportedly punched the victim and took his phone.

A few days later, a 14-year-old resident said he was walking with a friend near Greenspruce and Westbrook Parkway when a tan Buick SUV pulled up and began questioning him. The boy told police the four teens in the vehicle were armed with a handgun and were able to get away with his smartphone and money from his pockets.

Because the suspects believed to be tied to this case are minors, petitions for prosecution will be filed at the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Loussia explained. If charges are issued, the teens will likely have a hearing before a juvenile referee, he added.

According to numbers cited by Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence in her recent State of the City Address, more than 80 percent of crimes committed within the community are solved by the Southfield Police Department. Loussia noted that the trend of cellphone theft is on the rise and is an issue that police departments are dealing with around the country.

All around metro Detroit, authorities are on alert after sprees of smartphone thefts from stores have been reported in varying cities.

St. Clair Shores Police Sgt. Jay Cohoe said last week that three men are being sought from his department after allegedly snagging tethered phones from display cases. Cohoe said these same men are also suspected in similar larcenies from stores on Gratiot and Harper avenues in Detroit, and in stores in Oak Park and Warren last month.

They also believe the men committed a similar crime July 9 at a Verizon store in Dearborn.

In June, two teens from Farmington Hills were charged with multiple counts of unarmed robbery in connection with a surge in cellphone thefts around that area. The 17-year-old residents were charged as adults and were believed to be responsible for at least eight incidents that occurred in the city in a two-week timeframe, according to Cmdr. Matt Koehn, of the Farmington Hills Police Department.

In a majority of local cellphone theft scenarios, reports show that the subjects strike up conversations with intended victims to distract them.

For more information or safety tips, contact the Southfield Police Department at (248) 796-5500.

Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske contributed to this report.