Hi-tech gadgets can make owners target of crime

Freedom New Mexico

Folks who use iPods and higher-end mobile phones in public places may believe the devices enable them to be well connected to the world around them. But such technology seems to be giving off a different signal: Look at me, I’m a future crime victim.

As reported in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine, the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, researched crime statistics from 2005 — the year that sales of iPods exploded — and found that violent crime increased for the first time in a decade.

Case in point: On New York City’s subway system, there was an 18 percent increase in major felonies in the period researched; but when iPod and mobile phone thefts are excluded, crime actually fell by 3 percent.

Shaun Whitehead, a crime expert at Loughborough University in Britain, told Foreign Policy writer Preeti Aroon: “It could easily have been predicted that the iPod would be a desirable crime target. The sheer high visibility of the white iPod earphone wires is bad.”

So how does one get use of their high-tech devices without becoming a crime statistic?

Capt. Patrick Whitney of the Clovis Police Department said anytime you are carrying something of value on your person or in your vehicle it makes you a target. Paying attention to your surroundings is key to safety, he said.

“You just have to be aware of your surroundings and look around and notice who’s looking at you,” he said.

Portales police Capt. Lonnie Berry said listening to ear phones or talking on the phone can make a person more vulnerable. “If you have your earphones in you and lose consciousness of your surroundings you can become a victim. It can be a huge distraction,” Berry said.

You could say it all boils down to the sage advice of another — yet fictional — law enforcement official.

As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (“Hill Street Blues”) always said, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”