Two arrested for local cellphone theft spree

By: Jessica Strachan | Farmington Press | Published June 12, 2013

FARMINGTON HILLS — Police say it’s a national trend, and the city of Farmington Hills has not been exempt from the recent rise in cellphone thefts.

On June 6, authorities released a press statement warning the public about the issue and revealing that the city had experienced eight cellphone thefts or attempted thefts since May 24.

That day, a suspect was taken into custody, and on June 7, a second suspect was brought in for questioning. Both are 17-year-old males, according to Farmington Hills Cmdr. Matt Koehn.

“Putting the pieces together between the eight cases, we were able to identify two suspects. We are also looking at other people being involved,” he explained. “It really is a national trend, but in this case, these suspects were working together.”

Koehn said the strategy is simple: Suspects ask potential victims to borrow their phone, claiming to have an emergency, or even ask a question, such as for directions, to distract the victim before grabbing the phone from their hand and fleeing.

“Most of the time, the victims are holding their phones. In one case, the victim had his sticking out of his back pocket,” Koehn added.

None of the victims were injured, and all of the recent reports happened during daylight hours, at various locations around the city, according to the press release. The suspects also tended to flee to vehicles waiting nearby.

Koehn said the best thing people can do is to deny a stranger access to their phone.

“You pretty much have to tell them no. Typically, people aren’t going to attack you for your phone, but if it’s something simple, where it’s made easy for them, they will attempt to steal it.”

It was officers from the South Oakland Narcotics Intelligence Consortium, along with the Farmington Hills Police Directed Patrol Unit, who tracked down the first suspect June 6 and took him into custody.

Both suspects were arraigned at the 47th District Court over the weekend, and by press time, no further information, including their names, had been released.

Because of the scope of the trend, police believe there are other persons of interest out there. Anyone with information regarding these thefts is asked to call the Farmington Hills Police Department Command Desk at (248) 871-2610.

In the meantime, Farmington Hills Police Chief Charles Nebus has offered these safety tips for people to keep in mind:

• Don’t hand your phone to anyone you don’t know.

• Keep your phone in a secure place when in public.

• Be aware of your surroundings and people approaching you while you use your phone.

• If you see suspicious activity, call 911 immediately.