NYPD Passing out "Gear Guards," Marking Phones with Invisible Ink for Straphangers
Michelle D. Anderson
In response to increased crime on trains, NYPD officers have been passing out "gear guards" at various subway stations this week to make sure passengers' backpacks and purses are safe from pick pocketing thieves.
This morning NYPD police officers in Union Square station handed out fliers with safety tips and "gear guards," small metal clips that are used to fasten the zippers on backpacks and purses.
A police officer at Union Square said the groups of police had been at several train stations this week, including the 125th Street and Lexington station and Grand Central Station.
In September, new data was released that confirmed that subway crime had risen by about 17 percent since last year. The rise was attributed to the theft of electronics like trendy popular cell mobile devices -- namely iPhones. Owen Monaghan, assistant chief with the NYPD's Transit Bureau, told The Associated Press, that nearly half of the crime on trains has occurred on the weekends and extra officers have been present on the trains ever since.
The distribution of gear guards is not a new practice, however. According to a New York Daily News article dating back to 2001, the gear guards were the creation of three cops from Transit District 3 in Upper Manhattan in the wake of increased grand larcenies that spiked that year.
Brooklyn passenger Milton Simon said he took a gear guard to see if it works.
"I think it's a good idea," he said. "It might keep people away from me."
Another passenger, John Ellis, said he took one, but he hasn't "figured out how and if [he's] going to use it."
Near the Q, N,R trains in Union Square today, officers at table set-up were also encouraging passengers to register their mobile devices in the event of theft. The officers are using invisible pens to mark the back of cell phones with an ID number specific to the owner's information such as the device's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) or serial number. If the phone is stolen and found, the NYPD can check the back of the phone to verify the device's ownership.
An officer helping with mobile device registration said anyone could come to the precinct in Union Square to register their phone.
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