Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2018

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Police: Thieves stealing cell phones right out of victims’ hands

Metro Police arrested two men and six juveniles as part of an investigation into two groups of bandits who would grab cell phones right out of victims’ hands, even as they were on the phone, authorities said.

The department has received reports of about 50 incidents of such cell phone thefts in the southwest valley over the past eight months, police said.

Two of the suspects have been identified as Justin Profit, 18, and Joseph Neal Cardenas, 24, both of Las Vegas, police said.

Both men, who police say are not part of the same group, have been booked into the Clark County Detention Center on counts including burglary, grand larceny and conspiracy to commit robbery.

The arrests took place over the past several weeks, and police are still searching for more suspects, Metro spokesman Bill Cassell said.

The suspects tended to hit places where people are typically more relaxed, such as coffee shops or restaurants, Cassell said. They targeted people who appeared distracted or were not paying attention to their surroundings, he said.

The suspects would then run by the victim, grab the phone and flee to a getaway vehicle, police said. In some cases, the phone was snatched while the victim was still talking or texting on it.

“This is a classic case that individuals who are situationally aware can dramatically reduce the chances of being victimized,” Cassell said.

The two groups of cell phone bandits consist primarily of young male adults, but include one female, police said. They often stole the latest generation of Apple iPhones, although larger tablet-style devices also were taken, police said.

Since stolen cell phones can be easily resold, these types crimes are expected to increase, police said.

Thefts can also escalate into violent confrontations between the suspects and a victim or bystander, though no such incidents have been reported, police said.

Profit was being being held on $118,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

Cardenas was being held on $215,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

Metro’s Enterprise Area Command’s problem-solving unit made the arrests and is investigating the thefts.

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