Nearly 20 Smartphones Stolen in Wilkes-Barre

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WILKES-BARRE – Police in the Diamond City issued a warning to residents and visitors about a recent rash of smartphone robberies in recent weeks.

Chief Gerard Dessoye told Newswatch 16 that four robberies were reported this week, and nearly 20 cases of "apple picking" are being investigated so far this year.

“You’ve got a group of predator kids out there whose parents should be taking control of this. They should be solving this problem, not the police. Because, this is not going to end up good when we arrest them, because there has been physical confrontation. It’s going to be upgraded to a robbery in those cases,” said Dessoye. “If you’re in the wrong place at wrong time and confront these individuals, like I said at this point, they don’t seem to be violent unless confronted.”

Dessoye urged people to set passcodes on their smartphones and on important applications, such as those that can access bank accounts.

Even with electronic safeguards, Dave LaBar of PC Doctors in South Wilkes-Barre said tech-savvy crooks are still able to find ways to sell some stolen smartphones.

“There’s a couple buttons you can hold it, it’ll reset to factory defaults and it’s as if the phone was never even used,” said LaBar. “It’s like you just pulled it out from the box and its brand new, and you can enter in your information and set it up for yourself.”

Police believe that the crooks behind a reported robbery and stabbing on Carey Avenue Wednesday night were looking for cash, even though they also took the victims cell phone following the attack.

Authorities said they’re reviewing video from Hawkeve surveillance cameras from several incidents, and that anyone with information on the smartphone robberies should call Wilkes-Barre Police at 570-208-4207.