iPhone thefts, other crimes on Muni

iPhone on muni on my way to the Apple Store
Photo by Flickr user Steve Rhodes

We were reminded yesterday via Twitter that there seems to be an increasing number of iPhone and other smartphones being stolen from people on Muni trains and buses.

Here’s maryspecht‘s tweet:

@munidiaries have you noticed uptick in phone robberies on Muni? Mine was stolen last night & ppl tell me it’s been happening lots recently.

That jogged our memories of this story, on SF Appeal in mid-September, about the arrest of two young men for allegedly stealing cellphones on Muni.

Today, the Examiner online has a story about the city and SFPD’s eagerly awaited new measures meant to combat Muni-specific crimes, including the violent sort. The post discusses how crime has remained steady in the transit system, while ticking down for the rest of the city over the first half of the year.

Be careful out there. And always reports crimes when they happen.


  • How Not to Get Your Phone Stolen on Muni
    – or –
    Things I Learned The Hard Way

    1. When I was filing the police report, the cops told me you shouldn’t take out your phone at all.

    2. If you must take out your phone, make sure you’re not standing near the door where the thief can easily run out. It sounds obvious, but I certainly made that mistake.

    3. If it does happen, borrow someone’s phone to call the cops immediately. Fellow Muni riders were impressively sympathetic and offered to lend me theirs. The cops said you never know when there’s a cop around the corner, so it’s worth a shot.

    Thanks for helping get the word out!

    • Wait, you shouldn’t take out your phone at all? I understand #2 and #3 but #1 seems a little much. I just got a smartphone (the somewhat uncool Blackberry, which may not be in danger of being stolen). I’ll have to keep it in my purse and resist the temptation to check it.

      Two years ago I had my wallet stolen right out of my bag on Muni. Not a pleasant experience. Thanks for the tips, Mary.

      • Erin

        I’d still be careful with your Blackberry. I had a crappy Windows rip off of a Blackberry almost ripped out of my hands on the 67 yesterday afternoon by teenagers. Kids don’t really know the difference and often it’s just a game to prove they’re badass. I take out my phone on the bus all the time, but usually grip it with two hands (hence why they didn’t get it). I made the mistake of sitting near the back door, though, which was silly. I think the usual victims are the ones who lean forward in their seats while using their phones. It’s easier to grab that way. Take it out on the bus but just be aware of how your holding it.

  • Diana

    In 2004 I was pick-pocketed on the way to work. It was the the N-Judah; they stole my brand new ipod right out of my winter coat by bumping into me. I only realized it about a minute after it happened, but by then it was too late. Later in the day, I found it on Craigslist – even with registration #s and the songlist and the device name, the cops wouldn’t help me – they said the person could claim they bought if off of somebody else, and had no idea it was stolen. So it was a lost cause. My advice: keep your technology locked away as much as possible, and be as aware of it as you would a wad of $100s. If I had treated it like that, it wouldn’t have been in that pocket & so easily stolen. Lesson learned.

  • Rani

    So crazy. I had seen this post today and put it on my facebook page as a warning and I kid you not, on the 38 Geary at 5:30 pm I heard a woman scream and saw the aftermath of her being robbed of, yes, her iPhone. She was shaken up and didn’t want to report it, and the driver just sat there. I encouraged her to report it, and I alerted the driver that a crime just happened. She was sitting pretty close to the door. On the 24 bus just now I saw at least 4 people playing with their iPhones. We don’t have to be paranoid, but be aware. This is the 2nd phone robbery I have seen. It makes me sick to witness people get messed with.

  • MUNIfriend

    All you have to do to prevent your ipod/phone from being stolen is DO NOT STARE AT IT!! I see people with their music blaring in their earbuds and their focus totally on their ipod/phone. This while the thieves see and target them.
    I’ve heard the thieves selecting their marks and have prevented a number of thefts simply by striking up a conversation with the ‘target’ and getting them to look up! The thieves see this and leave. Notice I don’t make any attempt to point them out or confront them.
    Keep your hard earned Apple gadgets in your pockets!
    Be aware of your surroundings. Look around, listen!

  • Devin

    SFPD’s been stepping up enforcement of robbery crimes on Muni recently (or at least they’ve been claiming to and making an increased show of it). Here’s one from the Ingleside station chief’s daily report for yesterday:

    7:30pm Silver Av./Congdon St. Robbery with Force
    The victim was sitting by the door aboard a MUNI coach when a male and
    female suspect were waiting to exit. As the coach came to a stop the male
    suspect pulled the phone the victim was using from her hands. Both of the
    suspects fled on foot. Off. Periera and Off. Fung were the first officers
    on scene and broadcasted the information as they received it. The female
    suspect was detained and identified by the victim and witnesses. The
    female was interviewed at Ingleside Station and provided the name and
    location of the male subject. Officers responded to the male subjects home
    and he was later identified and booked. Case #091014701

  • Julia Thorn

    I witnessed a purse snatching on the 38 Geary bus this morning at Gough St. The man was sitting by the back door and snatched a woman’s purse before he ran out the door and down the street. Another passenger used her phone to call the police. This was a wake-up-call for me to move my wallet out of the outside pocket of my backpack and to keep a tight grip on everything at all times! I take the bus daily and watching this incident really shook me up.

  • Robin

    I was born and raised in S.F. and rode muni extensively, for many, many years. I never owned a car while living in S.F. I consider myself street smart, but I must have gone soft having moved to the East Bay and I let my guard down today on the 38 Geary. I became just another victim of iPhone theft.

    Evidently, this is becoming more and more common — especially on the 38 line. In fact, I have a good friend who almost got her iPhone stolen on the 38 Geary last year. The 38 Geary is truly of the worst bus lines in the city — my opinion before the theft! Actually, I was just thinking that as soon as I boarded the 38 Geary LTD bus on Divisadero, near Kaiser! It was just before 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon.

    The bus was fairly crowded and I was tired and irritated from waiting in line too long for a prescription at Kaiser. I made the fatal mistake of paying too much attention to my phone, to finish up a message I was sending while waiting for the bus. Someone vacated the seat in front of the exit and I took the seat. I was going to put some music on, as I usually do on Muni and Bart. (Especially on Muni, because it’s so irritating on lousy buses like the 38 Geary)

    As the bus reached the Laguna stop, the thief slammed the hand holding my iPhone in order for it to pop up, and he ran off the bus so quickly, I barely saw him! I grabbed onto my headphones that were attached to the iPhone, as I jumped out of my seat — but of course they came right out.

    People got in MY way, but no one seemed to get in HIS way. I got off the bus RIGHT after him/them but to no avail. I reached the corner and looked around…I asked people on the street if they had seen anyone running off the bus and I was told it was 2 young guys and informed which direction they went.

    They were gone. My phone was gone, plus one leather glove they grabbed with the phone. I have been incredibly angry at the scum who robbed me — but more angry at MYSELF. I know better and I am usually not a “target”, nor do I act like one. I was brought up to always be aware of my surroundings. Well, I failed to do that today and look where that got me. I can barely afford to pay the bills I have now — the iPhone was a birthday gift. If I could I would put a pox on the bastards that took my phone.

    It’s a good thing I had my phone set to lock with a password in 3 minutes. I immediately went to AT&T and shut down the phone. They never even got to use it. Don’t be a victim like me.

    As far as the Muni driver — he did NOTHING. He was unsympathetic, he did not care in the least that a crime was commited on his line, under his watch. After the incident happened, he was still loading up passengers when I got back on the bus and told him my phone was just stolen, on the bus. He was confused as to whether it was HIS bus — I said, “?! Didn’t you hear, didn’t you SEE, what was going on?! It just happened on YOUR bus! I was just on YOUR bus!” (How could he not know?! I was yelling at people to “Stop him! Stop him! He stole my phone!”

    I asked the driver if he could report it, could he call in the incident? He said I could call Muni and report it. Myself. I could call myself. He wasn’t going to do it.

    !!! I was in disbelief. Thanks a LOT for nothing.

    I then asked if he would wait for me for just a second, my headphones were on the sidewalk near the exit, and I wanted to retrieve them and re-board the bus.

    He wouldn’t!

    Before getting off, I asked if anyone had seen the incident. I had to ask a few times. Only ONE female passenger even bothered to speak to me about the incident, and said it was 2 guys wearing dark clothes. That was all she could tell me. NO ONE else uttered a word, no one offered a helping hand. What is the city coming to?! Isn’t there something that can be done?! And where are all the f**king cameras when you need them?!

    WHAT can be done? I won’t be the last to suffer. This must STOP.

  • I was attacked by three teenagers in Feb. while trying to board a 5 Fulton. No one helped me and they beat me up pretty badly. It was lame.

  • I would add that everything written here about Muni also applies to BART. On both transit services there is an epidemic of iPhone thefts. New reporting on the subject has been spotty at best.

  • Braggbear

    My iphone4 was stolen on the J line today. I was sitting near the door, checking twitter, and the guy swiped it from my hands and left.

    With the Locate my Iphone app, I know exactly where the thief has it right now (oakland on 69th and arthur). Unfortunately, the cops aren’t helping whatsoever.

    Lesson to be learned? I guess be aware of your surroundings on muni and don’t get too lost in what you’re reading.

  • Wendy Bear

    I had my wallet stolen out of my purse last thursday as I was exiting the N at Noe and Duboce during the morning commute. Yes the purse was unzipped- my fault- and lesson learned. It was still my wallet, my cash, my credit cards, my ATM card, and my personal stuff. I couldn’t cancel the cards fast enough- the thief (or thieves) managed to buy a number of Clipper cards within minutes. The whole experience has be very discouraging. Lesson learned to zip my purse, hold it tighter, and carry fewer cards.

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