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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a CNET UK article documenting the epidemic of personal electronics theft plaguing London these days and how to avoid being a victim. It turns out that here in the States we’re experiencing our own wave of personal electronics thefts. A recent L.A. Times article looked at the problem and reinforced many of the safety tips that I recommend.

Robberies of iPods and other small gadgets in L.A. are up 34% over the last year. The article focuses on trend toward younger victims, either at or around their schools:

Authorities said they began to see a sharp rise in electronics thefts on and around local campuses during the holiday season, when iPods and Razr phones became popular teen stocking stuffers. The Los Angeles Unified School District recorded 141 iPod thefts over the last school year, compared with 41 the year before, district police Lt. William Tant said.

Authorities believe that the numbers are actually higher because many students don’t report the crimes.

In just a few months, detectives in Northeast Los Angeles have noticed a jump in iPod robberies, following an increasingly common pattern.

“The victims are younger children, and getting younger by the week,” Lt. Steve Flores, who polices the Silver Lake, Highland Park and Eagle Rock areas. “Usually they are walking home. Someone approaches them. Usually they don’t have a weapon. They just bully them into giving it up.”

The article also reinforces some of the reasons why iPod users are such convenient targets:

“If you are talking iPods, they are perfect examples of what you’d want to steal … light, portable, abundant, expensive and in demand,” said George E. Tita, a UC Irvine assistant professor of criminology.

Tita said robbers have an advantage because iPod users often tune out their surroundings. “As I tell my students, when you’re wearing it, the thief doesn’t have to worry about sneaking up on you quietly!”

The article ends by offering some basic safety tips:

• Be alert when listening to music in public areas. Some robbers use the fact that listeners are “zoned out” to their surroundings as an advantage.

• Consider changing the type of earpiece when in public places. The telltale white earpiece of the iPod can tantalize robbers.

• Wear the machines inside your clothes, so they are not conspicuous.

• If you go to a school where personal electronics thefts have been a problem, consider leaving those items at home.

For more information about iPod safety, see my article Running With An iPod? Don’t Ignore These 5 Simple Safety Tips.

Read the full L.A. Times article.

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