Friday, November 4, 2011

Popular Products Also Popular With Thieves

Apple Computer products such as the iPhone and iPad are wildly popular with consumers. I also have to admit, they are also popular in the Department where I work. One downside to this kid of cult like popularity is the fact that this kind of popularity also means the devices are popular with thieves. Yesterday there was a trio of stories, including two from central Texas regarding thieves targeting the devices, or their owners for crimes.

The first from the tech website Cult of Mac is one where scam artists were targeting people in parking lots offering to sell iPads to passersby. After being show a real iPad in the box, the thieves would substitute an iPad box with a dummy iPad when the purchase was being consummated.

The second story over at the Austin American Statesman detailed an man who arranged to purchase or sell iPhones on Craiglist and then robbing the seller or purchaser at gunpoint when they showed up in a sketchy area to complete the deal.

The last one, also at the Austin American Statesman details a group of thieves in the sleepy little burg where I work, who managed to steal 38 iPads from a Wal-Mart display case and get them out the door.

A while back I covered a chapter in the book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers where they used the acronym CRAVED to describe some items popular with thieves. The acronym stands for:

  • Concealable. Things that can be hidden in pockets or bags are more vulnerable to shoplifters and other sneak thieves. Things that are difficult to identify or can easily be concealed after being stolen are also more at risk. In some cases, thefts may even be concealed from the owners of goods, as when lumber or bricks left lying around on building sites are stolen.
  • Removable. The fact that cars and bikes are mobile helps explain why they are so often stolen. Nor is it surprising that laptop computers are often stolen since these are not only desirable but also easy to carry. What is easy to carry depends on the kind of theft. Both burglars and shoplifters steal cigarettes, liquor, medicines, and beauty aids from supermarkets, but burglars take them in much larger quantities.
  • Available. Desirable objects that are widely available and easy to find are at higher risk. This explains why householders try to hide jewelry and cash from burglars. It also helps explain why cars become more at risk of theft as they get older. They become increasingly likely to be owned by people living in poor neighborhoods with less off-street parking and more offenders living nearby. Finally, theft waves can result from the availability of an attractive new product, such as the cell phone, which quickly establishes its own illegal market.
  • Valuable. Thieves will generally choose the more expensive goods, particularly when they are stealing to sell. But value is not simply defined in terms of resale value. Thus, when stealing for their own use, juvenile shoplifters may select goods that confer status among their peers. Similarly, joyriders are more interested in a car's performance than its financial value.
  • Enjoyable. Hot products tend to be enjoyable things to own or consume, such as liquor, tobacco, and DVDs. Thus, residential burglars are more likely to take DVD players and televisions than equally valuable electronic goods, such as microwave ovens. This may reflect the pleasure-loving lifestyle of many thieves (and their customers).
  • Disposable. Only recently has systematic research begun on the relationship between hot products and theft markets, but it is clear that thieves will tend to select things that are easy to sell. This helps explain why batteries and disposable razors are among the most frequently stolen items from American drug stores.

It pays to keep up with items that are CRAVED by thieves in your community. Identifying these items can help you focus your efforts and preventing, interrupting or reducing crimes that involve them.

What items are CRAVED by thieves in your jurisdiction?

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