Police in San Francisco are reporting soaring laptop thefts, following the increased use of Wi-Fi hotspots in the city.
San Francisco had 18 public laptop thefts in 2004, but this rose to 48 last year and the number could head above 100 this year, according to figures obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The robberies, some of which have been extremely violent, tend to occur at internet cafes or wireless hotspots.
"Now that we have these hot zones, people are bringing laptops out in the street and using them in public cafes,'' said Police Lieutenant John Loftus of the San Francisco robbery detail.
"It's a changing culture, and crime is following it. To the criminal element, this is a valuable piece of equipment that they can quite easily cash in on. Even otherwise law-abiding people are tempted to buy $3,000 laptops for $200 to $300 on the street."
The results can be very serious. A 40 year-old finance manager was stabbed through the lung last month as thieves took his Apple PowerBook. He spent six days in hospital and the perpetrators have yet to be caught.
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