MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every day in Minneapolis a teenager is the victim of a crime that police say has gotten out of control.
City police have taken hundreds of robbery reports from kids this year who’ve had their cell phones stolen. It’s happening on city buses, outside of schools, and on streets and sidewalks all over the city.
Police say it sometimes starts as group fights between teenagers, using fights as distractions to steal cell phones readily available in hands and pockets.
But it’s usually much less public, like what happened on a city bus to Tricia Miller, a high school freshman, on her way to Mall of America a few months ago.
“I was at the front, and he just grabbed my phone and ran off the bus,” Miller said. “I was pretty upset.”
The number of cell phones stolen from kids 18 and younger is skyrocketing in Minneapolis. In just one day in March, four teenagers called police to report their phones were stolen.
In one case, the kids were punched and kicked. In another, they were robbed at gunpoint. Cases have gone up five times in the last four years.
Minneapolis police worked more than 360 cases last year.
Sgt. Erick Fors says criminals get up to $200 for a phone. He says they often sell them to corner stores where an owner will send them overseas and make more than $1,000 per phone.
“What it boils down to is it’s all about money,” Fors said.
But just as kids are the target, Fors says they’re also usually behind the crimes.
“If the victim age is around 13 to 17, that’s going to be your suspect age group,” Fors said.
In fact, police have arrested 60 kids for stealing cell phones already this year.
Police have stepped up patrols after school in North Minneapolis and officers tell kids not to wave their phones around and to always be aware of who might be looking.
Police say the juvenile crime system is set up to be more about rehabilitation than punishment. So, the kids that are caught stealing cell phones usually get home monitoring and don’t have to pay any kind of fine or spend time in jail.