Cellphone Thefts Jump in Downtown Los Angeles

Cellphone thefts are rising in downtown Los Angeles.

Police Lt. Paul Vernon says 54 cellphones have been reported stolen in the Skid Row area in the first three months of 2012. That compares with 115 during all of 2011.

The cellphones are commonly being snatched from restaurant tables, libraries and nightclubs.

The lieutenant says a crook can easily turn an iPhone into a pay-as-you-go phone by replacing the SIM card.

In the past, cellphone service could be turned off. But on newer phones, a pay-as-you-go SIM card can be put in and there is no record of the user with a service provider.

The Los Angeles Times says cellphone thefts could increase 144 percent by the end of the year if the trend continues.