Apple Picking: Kids stealing your iPhone while you talk on it in Oakland

Holy crap. I just tried to stop a crime in progress about half an hour ago. I saw a young woman walking toward me on Telegraph in Temescal neighbourhood of Oakland. Broad daylight. Mid-afternoonShe was carrying some yoga mats and agitated and asking people to stop this kid on a bike that just was going by so I ran into the street after him. He’d grabbed her iphone. It’s happening a lot here. Someone told me the cops call it “Apple picking.” Something like 500x last year in a mile of that place. I ran after him and got my hand on the seat of the bike but just just missed a steady grip by about half a second. So now I now: never use earphone when walking around here or talk on my phone if people are around. I’ve heard too many stories and seen it myself now. I asked the coffee shop we were in front of- Arbor- to put up a sign to let people know. They said this happens all the time and that someone smashed in all the car windows the other day on the street. But they didn’t seem inclined to put up a sign.

It was weird that I didn’t even think about running after the kid. I only just got here from being back in Canada recently and it took a few minutes before I remembered that most American of words: gun.

What if that kid had a gun? Was I an idiot for running after him? He just seemed like a kid, maybe 12 maybe as old as 15 and he seemed harmless. But no matter how small or unlikely the situation it’s a possibility in America. A bad possibility. One that I regret. Like I said to the people when I was out of breath from chasing him and then remembered guns. “Let people make their mistakes with knives. Or nothing.”

If you know anyone in Oakland please spread the word. I only knew to run after this kid and to put my phone away because I’d heard about this as a thing that is happening all the time. Don’t walk around with your iphone visible. Plus then we can actually have time to notice and smile at each other.

Update August 8th: I’ve just learned that a friend. A 6’2″ tall friend was kicked in the eye the other night in San Francisco in order to take his phone. He just posted this to Facebook:

Please tell people they shouldn’t kick another person in the eye. Also, please tell people who have a say in the economy that a system in which inequalities continue to grow and rents keep rising makes it more likely that someone who is 6’2″ might be kicked in the eye in exchange for a cell phone that can be sold on the street.

I have loved living in both the US and in Canada but this is the first moment I’ve asked myself whether or not it’s really possible to keep doing so.