Dec 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New crime trend: jugging

Illustration of a woman juggling car keys, a wallet, and a cellphone, with a hand reaching in to steal the phone

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new crime trend is targeting the distracted and the elderly, with police warning about it from Alabama to California.

The big picture: Jugging involves thieves staking out unsuspecting victims at banks or retail stores before following and robbing them while they juggle smartphones and car keys in parking lots or at home.

How it works: Juggers wait in parking lots and watch for people — mainly those over 65 — to withdraw large sums of money from ATMs.

  • Suspected juggers also walk malls and computer stores to scout for large purchases.
  • The jugging can occur in a parking lot or after being followed home.
  • The jugging can also take place if the victim leaves the car for a bite to eat and the juggers steal the money or a new laptop from the vehicle.

Details: The Houston Police Department said documented cases of jugging (735) in 2022 have already surpassed last year's numbers (720), even though the agency has yet to collect data from November and December.

Zoom out: Jugging can involve crimes identified by the FBI as larceny, robbery, assault, and breaking and entering.

  • Houston police's robbery YouTube channel hosts several violent videos of suspected juggings to illustrate how dangerous they've become.
  • But not all police departments have identified jugging as a problem or say they use the term to describe muggings.
  • Albuquerque police spokeswoman Rebecca Atkin told Axios she had not heard of jugging being an issue in New Mexico's largest city.

But, but, but: Darren White, a former Bernalillo County Sheriff in New Mexico, said police give new trends new names to identify specific groups committing crimes using fresh tactics.

  • "If adding this new name to it helps differentiate potential targets, then it's great. Even if it's just another name for old fashion muggings."

Between the lines: Crime trends follow behavior patterns of potential victims, much like the jump in online shopping led to the rise of thieves stealing delivery packages.

  • The increase in work-at-home employees and surveillance cameras has helped reduce porch pirating, forcing thieves to look for victims elsewhere.
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