MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A rash of laptop thefts in the east metro has coffee shops on high alert.

Thieves are stealing laptops right out of the hands of customers at businesses in Maplewood and St. Paul.

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Two recent cases at a Caribou Coffee happened in broad daylight.

Nick Ryan occasionally stops by the Caribou on Rice Street in Maplewood.

“It’s sad you can’t even leave your laptop on a coffee table at a Caribou or any coffee shop,” Ryan said.

He says that location is a quiet place where he can take out his laptop and get some work done. But the next time he does that, he’ll be looking over his shoulder.

“I’d lose a lot of stuff if somebody came and snatched it and ran,” he said.

Within the last week, two customers have had that happen in broad daylight. On Saturday, a man walked into the Caribou, grabbed a MacBook Pro from a woman and took off running.

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Similar cases have been reported in St. Paul.

“We have, you know, five, six of these things that have now come together and we’d like to identify the person and get them in custody,” said Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell.

He says it’s easy to see why laptops and iPads are a target for thieves — even worth snatching right out of the hands of an unsuspecting owner.

“There may be a multitude of reasons,” Schnell said. “One is accessing information on it. If there’s private, personal information on the computer that may be of interest to them. And second of all, it could be to resell them.”

Schnell says the description of the thieves in both Caribou incidents match, and they’re waiting for surveillance video before they release a picture of the suspect.

In the meantime, Schnell says it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your surroundings.

“It’s stunning that somebody would have the kind of audacity just to walk up to somebody and grab their computer when they are … 2, 3 feet away and run,” he said.

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Apple has a “Find My iPhone” app for the iPhone that can also be activated for your iPad if it is stolen or lost.

John Lauritsen