By Colleen Long
Apple's products are so popular in New York City that the sleek devices are flying off shelves and, increasingly, into the hands of thieves.
More than 11,400 Apple products, mostly iPhones, were ripped off this year, an increase of 40 percent from last year. And the crimes make up most of the overall increase in burglaries, thefts and grand larcenies in the city, according to the New York Police Department.
Sammie C. Davis, a 66-year-old street musician from Brooklyn, said he keeps his iPhone at home in favor of a cheaper cell phone when out performing. He said he witnessed an attempted robbery of an iPhone two weeks ago on a Brooklyn street.
"Apple is a big thing these days, and they want it," he said of the thieves. "But I say, why go to jail for an Apple?"
The spike is frustrating a police department that's obsessed with crime statistics — and with keeping them down. NYPD officials insist the iPhone thefts are an aberration in an otherwise low-crime year so far: murders are on track once again reach record lows, and all crime in the past decade has been driven increasingly down.
The NYPD says the increase in the number of Apple thefts exceeds the increase in crime overall: while there was a 40 percent increase in Apple thefts, there was only a 4 percent increase overall in the major crimes tracked by the department.
Apple said the recently released iPhone 5 topped 2 million in the first 24 hours.
More iPhone thefts were reported in the city as thefts of other electronics declined.
The NYPD set up booths outside Apple stores where gleeful New Yorkers were buying the new iPhone 5 last weekend to give them information on how to activate technology that would help recover lost or stolen phones. They also registered serial numbers along with the owner's name and contact information. So far, the department has registered more than 1,500 new phones — and owners can have their items engraved with a unique number prefaced with "NYC."
Authorities say part of the problem is that people are too buried in their phones and aren't paying enough attention to their surroundings. Subway warnings tell passengers to remain alert and keep devices out of sight — a message some are taking to heart.
"I never leave it lying around," said 48-year-old Ryan Kemble said of his phone on Tuesday at Penn Station. "When I'm not using it, it's in my pocket all the time."