On Sunday, a Santa Rosa Apple store was robbed for the second time in less than one month.
That same day, a group of thieves made off with more than $50,000 in merchandise at a Palo Alto Apple store. The store was also robbed of $57,000 in iPhones, computers and other electronics the day before.
These mob-style robberies have occurred at least nine times at six Bay Area Apple stores over the span of a month, from late August to late September. In that time, thieves have pilfered at least $281,000 worth of iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices. Few arrests have been made.
Though the tactics are similar, police have yet to conclude that the same suspects are responsible for the recent string of thefts.
The operation usually goes something like this: A handful of hooded individuals storm an Apple store. They unplug and gather as much merchandise as they can in a few seconds, then run to a getaway vehicle idling out front as customers and security guards look on.
Since mid-May there have been at least 21 run-and-grab thefts at Apple stores in California, with losses exceeding $850,000 since the start of the year, KGO reported.
The bright open floor plan and wide entryways of Apple stores, which are designed to entice potential customers, may tempt thieves to steal with the promise of few obstacles. Likewise, many offenders seem to be aware of the "hands-off" policy for store security.
Apple has remained mum on the subject of store thefts in recent months. A representative of the company declined to provide comment for this article. Nonetheless, experts have long speculated about the company's store security plan.
Matthew Green, an associate professor of information security at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told The Chronicle earlier this month that Apple likely makes it difficult to use stolen demo products. The company controls the activation process required to make the products work, he said, and could ostensibly track down stolen gear.
The blog 9to5Mac said devices contain a software "kill switch" that disables the demo gadgets as soon as they leave the range of the store wi-fi. Apple has not confirmed these rumors.
Even if the phones are disabled, they could be dismantled for their parts or used without cellular service, Neil Broom, the owner of Technical Resource Center, a computer forensics firm in Huntington Beach, told The Chronicle.
The display phones, Broom said, are only demonstrations of the devices' capabilities.
A possible deterrent to thieves may be the presence of uniformed officers, San Francisco Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya told KGO. Though Apple stores have been targeted from the North Bay to the South Bay, San Francisco stores, which have uniformed officers onsite, have not been recently hit.
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