Police step up efforts to break crime rings behind iPhone robberies at ASU

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Two separate rings of robbers have Arizona State University students -- and their iPhones -- in their sights.

University police have made three arrests already, but now Tempe police are lending a hand to help ensure the crime rings are completely broken.

Not only have officers stepped up patrols, a gang unit has been called into to help do some legwork and gather information on those targeting students for their iPhones and other high-end electronics.

Most of the incidents have taken place as the victims were walking on or near campus.

"I used to sell iPhones on eBay ... so I know how valuable they are and how easy it is to turn them around for sale," said Codi Sommerville, a sophomore at ASU.

That's something the two crews of robbers seem to know, too. 3TV's Steve Ryan got a first-hand look at some of the tactics investigators are using to catch the thieves. Some of them are relatively apparent when you look around the ASU campus; others are not.

"The more eyes we have out here, the better off we are," said Tempe police Sgt. Steve Carbajal.

In addition to the increased patrols and the gang unit, Carbajal said two community-action teams have been enlisted and undercover work is in progress.

"We don't want the criminals to know where we are all the time," he said. "We want the element of surprise here. If these people want to try to take advantage of a situation that they see as an opportunity, we want them to think twice, because that very person could be a police officer."

One of the concerns is that those behind the robberies could become violent. It's already starting to happen. In one case, the suspects used force to rob a victim. While that victim was not seriously hurt, the incident took the case from general robbery to strong-arm robbery.