JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Thieves are snatching up smartphones, police say, from popular hangouts in Jacksonville Beach, including Surfer The Bar.
According to investigators, 17 cellphones have been reported stolen in the last month. 15 of those phones were taken from people who were at Surfer.
The crooks appear to be targeting women at crowded venues when it's late a night. Katelyn Taylor said it happened to her as she was walking through Lynch's Irish Pub, preparing to leave.
"When I got to the front door to pull out my phone ... I realized it was not (there)," Taylor said. "In that time, I turned around and went and retraced my steps, and I couldn't find it. My friend called my phone, and it was instantly turned off."
Jail records show over the weekend, Osiel Izquiero Zambrano (left) was arrested and charged with "grand theft -- pick pocket" in a separate incident. According to his arrest report, Zambrano tried stealing a phone from a woman's purse at Surfer The Bar, and she caught him in the act.
Investigators say it's hard to track down where the stolen phones end up, but it doesn't appear they're being sold in the Jacksonville area.
"These guys are professionals," said Sgt. Larry Smith with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department. "They're able to manipulate the phones to where you can't track them on an app, and it just makes it really difficult for us to help."
Police recommend keeping your phone in a front pocket and out of back pockets. If using a purse, keep it in a pouch with a zipper.