By Jim Melwert

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — SEPTA is reminding subway riders to be smart about smartphones. Transit officials say there is a dramatic increase of thieves snatching the phones right out of people’s hands.

It’s an all too often occurrence, someone holding a smartphone while standing near an exit on an El or subway train, and as the doors open, someone snatches that phone and disappears.

The number of such thefts nearly doubled last year, with over 300, and SEPTA spokeswoman Gerri Williams says they’re trying to cut down that number by reminding people to be aware of their surroundings.

“If you’re sitting in your chair and the train is moving along the track, no one is going to steal then, there’s nowhere to run,” says Williams. “But as soon as the doors open, that’s the opportune time for them to snatch it.”

Williams says holding a phone out when the doors open is pretty much the same as holding a handful of cash.

“You wouldn’t stand in the doorway of a subway with $400 in your hand,” she says. “But that’s what you’re doing when you have your cell phone out in such a vulnerable situation.”

She adds this isn’t unique to Philadelphia. Transit systems across the country are seeing a similar spike.

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