Protect yourself, put your phone away.

Beware: these phones make you a target.

Two weeks ago, we alerted you to a disturbing rise in robberies of smart phones and mp3 players on Metro; people who were playing with their toys by the doors of trains were relieved of their iPhones and iPods as thieves jumped out of the closing train doors. If you felt safe as long as you avoided metro doors, I have bad news for you. People have been jumped for their phones in Georgetown, Dupont and Shaw. TBD has details, as well as this harrowing account from a LeDroit Park Listserve (I’m posting the whole version):

On Saturday evening at 7pm en route to Shaw metro north entrance, I was jumped from behind and wrestled to the ground by a teenage thief trying to steal my iphone. Rather than risk being stabbed, I let go of the iphone. What is disturbing is that this is a busy road with many pedestrians walking by, yet not one person stopped to help, including the shopkeepers stood on the doorsteps. When I asked for assistance, I was told to use the payphone on the corner of 7th and T which is where the gang of teenagers preying on their victims hang out in the evening – including the evening I was attacked. There were 10 or 12 on the corner of 7th and T and all fled after I was robbed. A good Samaritan let me use his cellphone to call the police who arrived in under two minutes. They said they are aware of the gang on 7th and T and have been monitoring them, yet the brazen robberies and attacks in broad daylight continue unabated.

Given the proximity to the Howard Theater, I’m sure this kind of publicity will not be welcomed given the Theater’s planned reopening later this year. I have now been forced to avoid the Shaw metro and will take the U Street Cordoza location instead. Anyone walking in the vicinity of 7th and T should hide their cellphones. Ironically, I am a playwright, my most recent work being about race relations in DC. It is poignant I was attacked in the shadow of Howard Theater.

When I moved here for school over ten years ago, someone forwarded me a “Safety Tips for Women”-type of email. It warned me not to wear a ponytail (!), lest I be yanked from behind; it also said not to listen to music via headphones, because it marked you as a target. Headphones are easy to spot and usually mean someone is not paying attention to their surroundings. Back then (and now), I tried to look alert and make eye contact with people as I walked; the problem is, it’s difficult to do those things if you’re caught up in your favorite jam or absentmindedly checking in on Foursquare. Keep your phone out of sight. And if you see someone getting jumped and you don’t want to get involved, at least call the police.