Evanston Police arrest boy linked to one of several recent smartphone robberies

Tanner Maxwell

Evanston police arrested a city resident Monday in connection with a cell phone robbery that took place on a Northwestern student’s porch early Saturday morning, according to an EPD news release.

Around 10:54 a.m. Monday, EPD officers were notified of four boys walking on the 2000 block of Wesley Avenue and that one may be in possession of a gun. After officers took the four boys into custody, they discovered one had an Airsoft pistol in his waistband and charged him with violating a city ordinance.

Further questioning resulted in two other boys implicating themselves in two additional crimes, respectively: One was charged with criminal damage to property and another with residential burglary and theft from person – Saturday’s porch robbery.

Monday’s arrest brings to light a recent trend in smartphone thefts occurring close to campus.

Since Oct. 22, seven incidents of a similar nature have been reported, one of which took place just outside Shepard Residential College, 626 University Place.

These crimes started occurring around mid-October, said Daniel McAleer, University Police deputy chief.

Police responded to the call Monday and matched the descriptions given of four young males, one of whom was carrying an Airsoft pistol.

The boy with the Airsoft pistol was charged with a violation of a city ordinance, while another was arrested in connection with an unrelated case. The fourth boy was released without charges.

McAleer said the theft of smartphones occurs frequently in Evanston and Chicago.

“The campus is not immune to crime,” he said. “We do see these types of crimes from time to time.”

McAleer said smartphones are an easy target, allowing thieves to net some easy cash.

“We’re concerned about the whole,” he said. “It’s not just the campus, but off-campus and downtown as well.”

John Mirabelli, an officer in Chicago Police Department News Affairs, said crimes relating to smartphones are rising throughout the United States.

“They are an alluring item for thieves,” he said. “They can easily be sold and bartered on the street and black market.”

Smartphones, he said, are in high demand and sell for upwards of $200.

Mirabelli cited a recent case in which some Chicago thieves were stealing phones and selling them in Brazil.

Mirabelli said PIN numbers or other lock mechanisms should be used on phones for security. In addition, enabling GPS on a phone may be useful in locating it, he said.

University Police issued an emergency alert about the robbery Saturday. McAleer said the email notice, which told students how to prevent being targeted, is required by federal law.

McAleer said students should avoid talking on the phone or listening to music. In addition, students should cross the street or go into a public building if they do not feel safe.

Weinberg senior Cory Haala, who lives at the site of Saturday’s theft, said the recent robberies have left him wary.

“You become concerned when it literally comes to your front door,” he said.

Haala said he walks home from work in the very early hours of the morning and although he usually feels safe, he makes sure he does nothing conspicuous to avoid thieves.

“Don’t make yourself a target,” he said.

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