They’re not just worried about your tripping risk. One rationale for leaving your phone in your pocket while you’re on the sidewalk is pretty simple: it can distract you from your surroundings, making it easier for opportunistic criminals to catch you unawares, said NOPD Commander Bob Bardy in a meeting Tuesday night with the Delachaise Neighborhood Association. But for someone walking at night, the glow from the smartphone in the dark will be instantly recognizable to anyone nearby, Bardy said, and perhaps signaling easy prey.
“You’ve got this big blue light that says, ‘Come get me,’” Bardy said.
Smartphone snatching is a particular problem in the French Quarter, Bardy said, but people walking around with their phones visible have been victims in several Uptown robberies as well.
Bardy’s comments were part of a broader presentation on crime trends in the Delachaise area on Tuesday night. Property crimes have been plaguing the Sixth District for weeks, despite a number of arrests of suspected burglars and thieves, said Lt. Frank Young of the district’s investigative unit.
Property crimes are usually driven by repeat offenders, Young said, citing the case of a couple arrested several months ago in the neighborhood who pleaded guilty to a total of 16 counts of auto break-ins. Gamaliel D. Patterson, 30, accepted a sentence of 12 years in the cases based on his prior record, but co-defendant Tracy Skipper, 19, was given probation as a first-offender — and she was arrested in connection with auto burglaries again last week, Young said.
The trends in play seem to be a rash of daytime residence burglaries in the Irish Channel area and nighttime auto break-ins around the Delachaise corridor, Young said. The Sixth District’s detectives are actively investigating each case, he said, as well as employing targeted patrols in hoes of catching the burglars in the act.
“Believe me, this has become priority number one,” Young said. “We’re fortunate to be down in violent crime to concentrate on this.”
Detectives have also submitted evidence in several of the crimes for DNA testing, which is becoming more widely used in everyday crimes such as thefts and burglaries.
“We are actually starting to do some remarkable stuff with DNA,” Bardy said.
Bardy and Young thanked the residents for their use of private surveillance cameras, noting the increasing numbers cases that have been solved with video. In many cases, detective work can only go so far — but a camera image can make a huge difference.
“It came from you guys,” Bardy said. “It was your cameras that gave us pictures.”
Bardy invited all the residents to his weekly meeting of ranking officers, held every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. At the meetings, they review all the crimes from the preceding week, and they are open to the public — so he urged the association to send a representative.
“If you have a question, you can talk to one of the detectives for an update,” Bardy said.
Finally, the officers reiterated their most usual plea to residents: Lock your homes and cars at night. Three of the last four home burglaries had their doors unlocked, as did four of the last auto burglaries.
“Secure the vehicles,” Bardy said. “Please don’t leave your laptop on the front seat or your backpack.”