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Photo by: Tim Freed - Phone store robberies and snatch-and-grabs have local police on high alert lately.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 3 years ago

Phone store robberies rise in Orange County

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Phone store robberies rise
by: Tim Freed Associate Editor

An AT&T store in Goldenrod was the latest victim in a series of phone robberies slowly on the rise in Orange County.

An armed black male suspect robbed the AT&T store at 7414 University Blvd. on Jan. 1 at around 11:40 a.m., stealing an undisclosed amount of cash, cell phones and other merchandise. The suspect forced the two store employees into a back room during the robbery.

No one was hurt in the incident.

The robbery comes just nine days after a similar robbery on Dec. 23 at an AT&T store located at 11241 E. Colonial Drive. That robbery was one of seven phone store shakedowns in Orange County in 2014, an increase from the three stores robbed in 2013.

But storefronts aren’t the only victims of phone theft. Orange County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Lourdes Clayton said Orange County saw a rash of phone thefts last September – targeting children. Suspects followed students walking home from Westridge Middle School in south Orange County, snatching cell phones from their hands.

“They were taking them from younger kids, middle school students walking with their phones,” Clayton said. “We’ve had our issues with that.”

Orange County saw a total of 12 such cases that took place outside of schools last year, a decrease from the 16 cases in 2013. A total of 72 phone snatchings happened last year in Orange County.

National statistics point to phone theft increasing throughout the country.

Consumerreports.org estimated that 3.1 million American consumers were victims of phone theft in 2013 — more than double the number in 2012.

Clayton said the best way to avoid phones being stolen is to be aware of your surroundings.

“You don’t want to be distracted, that’s what these guys are looking for,” Clayton said. “So many people are walking around on their phones and really not paying attention. It’s just really easy to run by and grab a phone.”

Clayton also suggested downloading apps that use GPS tracking to help locate a stolen phone.

One app called Lockwatch photographs a suspect who’s stolen a phone when they try to access it via an incorrect password.

Store fronts may have fewer options to prevent robberies, though surveillance video cameras and security glass are helpful, Clayton said.

“In terms of what a business can do, they have to take all of the security measures that they can,” Clayton said.

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