San Francisco police say that laptop robberies soared from 18 in 2004 to 48 in 2005, and that thefts will almost certainly surpass that by the end of this year. According to the police, the robbers (one of whom was only 15) have discovered a lucrative market for "hot" laptops that sell on the street for as little as $200 each.
Police and computer experts urge users to exercise common sense; be aware of one's surroundings, use cable locks (which are now being provided by some cafes) to prevent a quick snatch, and, of course, back up critical data. For their part, police are setting up better surveillance and undercover decoys in some locations. One factor in the rise of such crime is that patrons in wireless cafes reasonably assume that the establishment is safe, and therefore let their guard down.