Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 | 2 a.m.
As holiday shoppers survey merchandise to satisfy wish lists, police say crooks are doing the same — scanning crowds to find potential robbery victims.
Street robberies have increased roughly 6 percent since last year, prompting police to urge shoppers to be more aware of their surroundings, said Lt. William Scott of Metro Police’s robbery section.
Last year, Metro recorded 1,566 street robberies, Scott said. Through the first week of December this year, 1,656 street robberies had been reported to police, he said.
Authorities suspect unemployment is to blame for the crime spike, as people become desperate to make ends meet, especially around the holidays.
“You have people who are committing crimes who probably have never committed crimes before in their lives,” Scott said. “Now, they have to pay the mortgage, they have to pay their car notes, and they are seeing opportunities where they can get cash.”
By opportunities, Scott means distracted people who are too busy talking or sending texts on their phones to realize suspicious circumstances, such as someone following them. These people often wind up being robbery victims, unable to provide police with much useful information, he said.
“They can’t give us good suspect descriptions, so, therefore, who do you go after?” Scott said.
The street robberies are happening across the valley in parking lots of shopping centers and apartment complexes, as well as outside single-family homes, Scott said. The latest such robbery outside a home occurred Nov. 27 in the southwest valley, he said.
Police said people should remain vigilant in their vehicles and be aware if someone seems to be following them home.
“A lot of these victims had gold jewelry on,” Scott said. “The majority of them were wearing something that caught the eyes of these suspects.”
Scott said many of the suspects appear to be working alone, but they may exhibit suspicious behavior such as wearing a bandana or constantly glancing from side to side. The best prevention is paying attention to surroundings, he said.
“If you see something that doesn’t look right and doesn’t smell right and that hair is rising on the back of your neck, make sure that you pause for a minute,” Scott said.
If you are being followed, Scott suggested you keep driving. In a safe area, pull over and call 311, a non-emergency response number overseen by Metro.