Uptown officers catching cell phone thieves in the act

Uptown officers catching cell phone thieves in the act

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Just about every person you see has a cell phone and take them everywhere they go. As cell phones rise in popularity, need, and price, thieves are targeting them.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say cell phone theft is a problem, and it gets worse in the summer. Officers say uptown Charlotte is a hotbed for cell phone thieves.

"That's where we have the highest amount of cell phone thefts - in the city," Sgt. Thomas McGarity said. "All the bars and clubs and restaurants... people have a tendency to lay their phones down."

Sgt. McGarity said people actually going around uptown looking for those phones.

Police have been running an operation to catch would-be thieves. Officers put out a bait cell phone and an undercover officer stands nearby, pretending to be distracted.

Officers say the bait phone has a protective case that prevents the thief from turning it off. An officer has an app on another phone that allows them to see the phone's location in real-time.

Police say they do the bait phone operation at different locations around uptown.

"Usually, after a couple of weeks of doing this, the people that steal phones will get hinked up about stealing a phone because they don't know if it's ours or if it's a true victim," Sgt McGarity said.

People arrested for stealing the bait phone are charged with misdemeanor theft. If someone tries to return the phone at the scene, police say that person gets a gift certificate.

Officers say businesses in uptown chipped in to contribute gift certificates so they can help get a grip on cell phone thefts.

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