WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — After a weekend of cell phone thefts over festival weekend in the District, the Metropolitan Police Department is sharing tips for how to keep your belongings safe when out and about.
Captain Jeffrey Kopp with the Criminal Investigation Division said there are two ongoing investigations related to cell phones and wallets being stolen. One of those incidents happened at the Something In The Water music festival, while the other happened at Twelve After Twelve nightclub.
As of right now, police do not believe the incidents are connected, but dozens were victim of theft at both locations over the same weekend. Police have released a picture of a person of interest in the music festival investigation.
With both incidents, the pickpocketing happened in large crowds. Captain Kopp referred to the scenes as target-rich environments.
He explained, “It’s very easy for a suspect to kind of make their way in and out of the crowd. People are bumping into each other; they’re swiping your phone; they’re taking something else and people are none the wiser, because it’s just so many people packed into the one little area and they kind of capitalize on it.”
Even with dozens of phones stolen in two separate incidents, police do not believe the thefts are a widescale problem.
Captain Kopp said, “We haven’t seen an epidemic of this going on yet, and we do have resources dedicated to it.”
Data shows that both theft and robbery are up citywide, by two and 33 percent, respectively.
Police say prevention is just as important as finding the people responsible, so they have issued a pamphlet to prevent people from becoming a victim. The trifold has tips for men, women and travelers. Additionally, there are common misconceptions about pickpockets and information for police stations in each district.
As far as businesses are concerned, if theft is happening in the establishment, Captain Kopp said they have an important role to play. “They’ve got staff that can be on the lookout for people who are prowling around, swiping things off tables or out of back pockets, and even encourage customers if they leave their phones on the bar for a second, turn their back, that’s something the bartender can see and correct.”
Captain Kopp said in most cases, bouncers or security are lawfully unable to check people’s pockets on their way out.
He explained, “In order to come into the private property, they’re within their realm that they’ve ensured the safety of that space. On the way out, they have to be really careful and balance people’s constitutional rights. You can’t just stop me and search me, we have laws against that.”
As the investigation continues, Captain Kopp said the general public can help. “It may be a bigger problem than we are aware of, so we’re asking complainants to come forward,” he said.
MPD is still working to track down the owners of several phones that have been recovered. They ask that people contact the Command Information Center at 202-727-9099.