Durham Tech police issue cellphone theft alert

Aug. 14, 2013 @ 06:00 PM

Police at Durham Technical Community College issued an alert this week warning that cellphone thefts at the school have recently increased.

Sarah Minnis, police chief at Durham Tech, said four cellphones have been stolen at the school in recent weeks and that two arrests have been made. She said neither person charged was affiliated with the school.

"Our students are coming back [for fall semester], so we wanted to give folks an understanding of what's going on," she said.

The crime alert stated that the suspects often get the phone under the pretext of borrowing it to make a call.

Minnis said phones have been stolen as a victim studies at a table or works at a computer. The suspect walks by, picks up the phone and runs away.

She offered these tips to avoid being a victim:

- Pay attention to your surroundings. Thieves often target people who are talking or texting on their phones.

- Don't leave your phone in a public place such as a library or café.

- If someone asks to borrow your phone to make a call, offer to make it for them, or direct them to a red courtesy phone on campus.

- If your phone is stolen, call police and your wireless carrier to have your phone turned off.

At N.C. Central University, police reported two cellphone thefts during the previous academic year, according to Ayana Hernandez, director of public relations.

She said one victim was a student and other a non-student.

And at Duke University, police said the problem cellphone thefts is roughly what it is in the rest of society.

In May, Durham police issued a crime alert, saying that there had been an increase of cellphone larcenies.

They said a majority of thefts happened between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. The victims were usually walking along the street when a vehicle approached and someone inside asked to use the phone. When the phone was handed over, the driver sped off.

Recent figures on phone thefts were unavailable Wednesday from the Durham Police Department.