Mobile crime spree on North Coast

CLOSE CALLS: Anthony Brown of Goonellabah, with Toni Knapman of Lismore, keeps his phone close by when having a coffee.
CLOSE CALLS: Anthony Brown of Goonellabah, with Toni Knapman of Lismore, keeps his phone close by when having a coffee. Cathy Adams

UP TO 10 mobile phones are stolen a week on the North Coast, and most are swiped while their owners are relaxing in cafes and restaurants, according to police.

Lismore police crime prevention officer Sen Const Michael Hogan said the number of phones stolen from cafe tables or out of open handbags was on the rise.

On Sunday a phone valued at $999 was stolen from a patron at an East Ballina cafe.

“They go missing when people are distracted, when they are not really concentrating on their phones,” Sen Const Hogan said.

“These days it's too easy for a thief to just change the sim (subscriber identity model) card and they have a new mobile phone.”

He said police did not believe a band of thieves were targeting phones, rather many thieves were stealing phones when the chance arose.

Sen Const Hogan warned it was a costly crime.

“Most people have their phones on a contract, so to replace it you have to pay the contract out. That can easily run to $1000,” he said.

People are also carrying more expensive phones, including iPhones, Blackberries and navigator phones.

Owner of Lismore's La Baracca Trattoria, Stephen Krieg, said no phone had ever been reported stolen there but about three customers a month left their phones behind.

“But our floor staff are efficient and honest and pick up whatever is lost,” he said. “Then the phone will ring and it will be the owner, finding out where their phone is.”

La Baracca customer Anthony Brown said he was not worried about having his phone stolen because he liked to fiddle with it when sitting.

“I just like playing with things. I'm a born fiddler,” he said.

Lismore police are also warning people to avoid leaving phones in cars. “Leaving a phone in a car provides a thief with the incentive to break in,” Sen Const Hogan said.

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