Cell phone thefts helped drive up total robberies last year in Minneapolis and St. Paul, police officials in those cities said Tuesday.
Robberies rose 9 percent in St. Paul and nearly 8 percent in Minneapolis. People distracted by their phones are often targets.
"People are so in tune to whether they're trying to get email, a text, surf the Internet, take photos, look at photos, it really makes them not aware of what their surroundings are," St. Paul police Sgt. Paul Paulos said.
Robberies can occur in broad daylight and in public areas, he added.
Minneapolis police officials say thieves sometimes follow their victims off the bus or train. Besides phones, thieves also target tablets, laptop computers and other electronic devices, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said.
Both departments distribute crime alerts electronically to alert residents about spikes in robberies, and they boost police presence in areas where additional enforcement is needed.
Sometimes, people don't call the police after they've had a phone or electronic device stolen because they are embarrassed or don't think the police will respond to the call, Elder said, adding that's a mistake.
"We can't address the challenges and the problems if we don't know where they are and what they are," said Elder. "We do need people to tell us so we can better serve the public."