Thefts on Portland Transportation Increasing

Portland metro attorneys have warned people this week that thefts on TriMet buses and trains has increased by no less than 65 percent since 2006, even though the number of people using the service has only gone up by five percent in the same period. And they’re pretty sure they know the reasons why.

TriMet officials blame the increasing popularity of high-tech gadgets for an increase in theft on Tri-Met services. That spike in crime since 2006 just happened to kick off at about the same time that Apple’s iPhone was launched into the marketplace.

One of the reasons hand-held technology is so successful is because of its light weight and portability, in spite of the relatively hefty price tag these products can command. Unfortunately, these are the exact same things that make iPhones, iPads, Androids and other portable hi-tech gadgets commuters are so fond of such a popular target for thieves.

The statistics are worrying

Portland metro attorneys are concerned that increases in thefts will ultimately result in confrontations between thieves and their victims. Serious injuries—or worse—could be the result, and there have been a number of high-profile cases over the past year where people who refused to give up their cell phone or iPad were punched or stabbed on TriMet trains and buses, or on the platforms.

Some of the statistics relating to crime on TriMet services make for worrying reading. For example:

  • In 2011 alone, a sudden rash of thefts triggered a 12 percent increase in serious crimes on what is Oregon’s largest mass transit system.
  • Of the 496 serious crimes that were reported to TriMet officials in 2011, 347 (or about 70 percent) were thefts that took place on TriMet buses, trains or on station platforms.

But what are the chances I’ll be a victim?

The odds are still in your favor, but they’re getting that little bit slimmer all the time. In 2011, there was more than one serious crime per day reported on TriMet services. The breakdown is as follows:

  • TriMet has an average of 322,000 daily boardings. Total boardings for the year just gone were just over 101 million, compared with 99.6 million boardings in 2010.
  • In 2011, TriMet reported 4.9 serious crimes for every million boardings, compared with 4.4 serious crimes for every million boardings in 2010.
  • Thefts and larcenies increased from 317 in 2010, to 347 in 2011.
  • Particularly worrying to Portland metro attorneys was the increase in aggravated assaults on TriMet services; from 17 in 2010 to 28 last year.

L.A. and Boston are safer than Portland

It seems that Portland’s mass transit commuters are more likely to be robbed than those in other, much larger cities. That may come as something of a surprise to many, but Los Angeles transit system authorities use exactly the same methods to record crimes as do TriMet officials. “We count them all; petty or grand theft. A theft is a theft,” said L.A. County Sheriff’s Commander Pat Jordan.

To use the Los Angeles transit system, subway riders must purchase tickets before they can access station platforms through turnstiles. That may, at least in part, explain why out of the 450.2 million boardings (more than four times the number in Portland), a total of 576 thefts were reported. That amounts to about 1.27 thefts per million boardings in L.A., compared to 3.43 thefts for every million boardings in Portland (347 thefts out of 101 million boardings).

In Boston, the number of serious crimes reported on mass transit services amounted to 2.9 serious crimes per million boardings, still significantly lower than Portland’s 4.9 crimes per million boardings.

Criminals aren’t always subtle

Many thieves on TriMet services simply employ “snatch and run” tactics. They simply grab devices from riders who are listening to their music, reading an electronic book or playing a game on their iPad, then make a run for it.

Other criminals are far more aggressive. Several cases have been reported where a thief will simply walk up to someone and say, “Give me your phone.” If the person says no, things can become violent and people can be seriously injured.

Mass transit authorities right across the country say people who own expensive electronic gadgets could help lower the crime rate, simply by being more aware of their surroundings. Some methods of preventing these thefts seem like simple common sense, but it’s amazing the number of people who don’t take precautions like:

  • Not leaving smart phones and other devices exposed on seats
  • Keeping any handbags which contain high-tech gadgets closed and in your possession at all times
  • Watching those around you; are they hovering too close, and do they seem unduly interested in your electronic device or the bag in which it’s being carried?
  • Keeping small devices like iPhones and Androids tucked into front pockets, where you’re far more likely to notice if a thief tries to make a grab for it

According to mass transit authorities, many of the thefts that take place every year are ultimately preventable. The problem is, every time the newest high-tech gadgets come out, people buy them and thieves want them. New York police say every time a new iPhone model is introduced, there will invariably be a spike in subway robberies.

TriMet Authorities are trying to help

For their part, TriMet are increasingly sending plain clothes officers out on their trains and buses to target gadget thieves. However, they feel the key to reducing thefts ultimately lies with educating commuters to the dangers of theft and in encouraging them to keep their high-tech gadgets close and out of sight.

Have you or a member of your family been the victim of crime while using TriMet services? Do you feel TriMet were negligent in providing sufficient security? Were you assaulted? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you may want to consider contacting a team of Portland metro attorneys for a free consultation. They will explain your rights and entitlements under the law and advise you on whether or not you should proceed with a personal injury claim. If you decide to go ahead, they will guide you through the entire process.