New trend of "Apple picking" emerging, smartphone theft increasing

Students across the Eastern Michigan University campus were asked, “Do you know what Apple picking is?” The majority thought it had to do with physically picking apples off of a tree. The reality is, the term Apple picking has nothing to do with fall or fruit. Apple picking is the latest trend in thievery. According to ABCNews, this crime spree started spreading across the U.S. in the fall of 2012 and has only increased in frequency and intensity.

On Sept. 23, a 30-minute observation revealed that 89 out of 100 students were seen texting or talking on their cell phones while strolling from one class to the next, completely unaware of their surroundings.

The scheme involves people who are actively using their cell phones, either to text or to talk. The thief walks up, simply snatches the smartphone from the victim’s hands and runs off. The few minutes that the victims are standing stunned are precious time that the thief has to make his or her exit.

“In a lot of these cases, the victims are not paying attention to their surroundings,” said Sgt. Bobby Hernandez of Miami Beach Police in a statement to CBS Miami. “[The thieves] jump out of the car, they rip it out of their hand, or they put a gun to them.”

The Apple iPhone has a street value of more than $300. These thieves do not need to break into the phone because the phone was already unlocked and in use when they stole it. There are apps out there to crack the password if necessary, and many of them are free.

“Apple picking hasn’t occurred on the EMU campus yet,” EMU Police Chief Bob Hayes said. “Our biggest crime is larceny – people leaving stuff on the table or desk and walking away from it. Larceny is 100 percent preventable. Do not leave your things and
ask others to watch them for you.”

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department director of community engagement, Derrick Jackson, said, “There have been no reports specifically for the theft of cell phones in Washtenaw County this year. Citizens should be careful how and what they store in their phones, and always be aware of their surroundings.”

Once stolen, phones can be difficult to recover.

“Unless the FBI is tracking specific crime data for Apple picking, we will have no coding that will allow our officers to track stolen cell phones individually,” said Lt. Tony Cuevas of the Michigan State Police, Monroe branch. “When larcenies occur, they are often listed as ‘other’ or listed with other missing items. The best advice I can give students and citizens is make sure that your passwords are unique so that a criminal is less likely to figure it out, and be aware of where you are and who is around you.”

Some students are taking precautions to make sure the crime does not happen to them.

“When I am out alone or if I feel like I might be in an unsafe area, I will pay more attention,” said Alycia Butler, an EMU junior. “I have a ‘no save’ on my phone, so it never saves any of my passwords or anything; the most someone will get is access to my Facebook account.”

Not all students are that concerned, though.

“I don’t worry at all,” sophomore Siera Reed said. “I have a lock on it.”

If you are a victim of a crime, please contact EMU police at 734-487-1222


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