Lauren and her two friends had no idea their phones were missing until they left the bar.
But sure enough, as they walked out of Ri Ra Irish Pub in the early morning hours of December 17, all three women discovered that their iPhones had been lifted from their purses — which had been on their shoulders all night.
When they returned to Ri Ra’s to try to track down their phones, Lauren says they found a half-dozen other people there for the same reason.
“Hopefully something will be done about this,” said Lauren, who asked that we not use her last name.
Ri Ra, the popular Uptown bar, has been the epicenter of a rash of smartphone thefts over the past four months. Police records show at least four discrete instances of phones being lifted from purses at Ri Ra since October.
- On October 15, two women (age 23 and 28) reported that their iPhones were stolen from their purses between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.
- On November 5, a 22-year-old woman reported her iPhone phone was stolen between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.
- On December 17, a 22-year-old woman reported her iPhone was taken from an unzipped purse hanging on her shoulder between 11:30 p.m. and 1:45 a.m.
- On February 4, a 23-year-old woman reported that she was walking through a crowd at Ri Ra between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. when she felt a tug on the purse hanging on her shoulder. When she went to get her phone, her purse was unzipped and the phone was gone.
Victims contacted by Agenda say there have been other thefts that went unreported to police.
And it appears that whoever is ending up with the phones is fairly sophisticated.Some people who have had their phones stolen say they’ve since started receiving text messages claiming their phone has been found and asking them to click a link to verify their information.
This string of thefts is the latest in what’s become a continual problem in Charlotte since smartphones became a fixture of city life around 2012.
Starting in 2015, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has run sting operations Uptown in which they use bait phones to try to arrest thieves. The year prior, nearly 400 cell phones had been stolen in the department’s Central Division, which includes Uptown.
“That’s where we have the highest amount of cell phone thefts in the city,” CMPD Sgt. Thomas McGarity told WBTV last year. He said that thieves will circulate around Uptown specifically looking to steal phones. “All the bars and clubs and restaurants… people have a tendency to lay their phones down.”
Ri Ra Chief Operating Officer Angela Grogan said she doesn’t believe the bar is experiencing more theft than any other similar establishment — but if we discover that we have for some reason been targeted we will take this very seriously indeed,” she says.
“We are very concerned and disturbed if any patron suffers a loss as a result of theft of personal property on our premises,” she said by email. “We are as vigilant as possible within the reality of a very busy public place.”
Ri Ra will soon begin warning customers to be vigilant and is looking at putting signs in visible locations at the bar reminding customers to be vigilant and to report any unusual behavior to a staff member.