Be alert using public transportation

You can always count on thieves to quickly react to changes and take advantage of new opportunities. Recently the city of Boston completed installation of cell phone service for T-Mobile customers along the 11-mile Orange Line subway.

So naturally, riders are now pulling phones from their purses and pockets and making calls and sending text messages while underground. Phone thieves have taken notice. During the first three months of 2010, phone snatching on Boston’s subways is up 70 percent over last year. AT&T is expected to begin testing on the Orange line soon and the city plans to have cellular coverage for its entire subway system by the end of 2011, providing even more opportunities for grab-and-run phone thieves.

Many of the other 14 cities with underground subway systems, New York excepted, also now offer some cellular coverage. We caught up with Larry Mays, director of transportation and logistics for ADT Security Services, to see what subway users can do to protect themselves and their phones. He said crooks are always on the lookout for an easy mark.

“The most obvious solution is to curtail the use of your phones while on the subway – don’t show your expensive smart phones to would-be thieves,” Mays said. “But if you must use them, be aware of your surroundings and keep a tight grasp on your phone at all times.”

He also offered a couple of other safety tips for riders of subways and other forms of public transportation.

“In addition to your phones, keep all your personal belongings close to you or against your body and keep an eye on them at all times,” Mays said. “Never carry more than you can manage and try to keep one hand free in case you have to defend yourself.”

Also, he said, if you ever feel uneasy or threatened by another passenger’s behavior, change your seat, alert the driver or conductor and get off the bus or train as soon as possible. Commuters can help public transportation officials control crime by trusting their instincts and reporting what they see.

-- PSW staff