Video: Students’ cell phones stolen after ’emergency call’ by stranger

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    Senior theater major Alisan Heath said she thought the right thing to do when a stranger asked to borrow her cell phone was to let him.

    Heath said she had just gotten out of a night class in Ed Landreth Hall when a man with a young girl approached. The stranger said his car had broken down, and he needed to borrow her cellphone to make an emergency phone call. After hesitating for a moment, Heath dialed the number for the man and gave him her cell phone. He proceeded to talk on the phone for five minutes and then suddenly took off running towards a white van parked in a parking lot across the street. The girl had gotten in the van a few moments before.

    Over the past few weeks, there have been two cases reported to the university police of a stranger with a small child approaching students, asking to borrow their cellphones and then running away, stealing their cellphones. Two other cases of a similar incident were reported to Fort Worth Police. All four cases took place on or around campus.

    TCU Police Sergeant Kelly Ham said the suspects stealing the phones were probably hoping to make profit by reselling them. He said smart phones were ideal to steal because they are so expensive, and black markets exist for reselling them.

    “I read of a case in another city in the Metroplex where they arrested a group that was actually selling them in the mall as refurbished when all they were doing was just wiping the data off,” Ham said.

    Senior general studies major Erin Flavin said she would probably let a stranger borrow her phone if he said it was an emergency. However, if he tried to run away with it, Flavin said she would run after him because she didn’t know what she should do without her phone.

    “I use it for practically everything,” she said, “To remind me of meetings, events. I rely on it everyday. It wakes me up in the mornings.”

    Heath bought a new phone the next day because she needed one to stay connected with friends and family, keep up with events, meetings and emails.

    Ham said because of the recent phone theft, students should not lend their phones to anyone unless they see a dire emergency, and should dial 911 themselves.