Asians' appetite for high-end electronics is putting them in street-gangs' crosshairs.

Late-model mobile phones are a hot demand item for thieves on the prowl in Auckland's central city, police say.

"Mobile phones are a commonly targeted item because they are easy to conceal, remove, and are very valuable and disposable," a police spokeswoman said.

Two weeks ago, two teenage girls accosted a 25-year-old Thai waitress in Aotea Square while another snatched and ran off with the woman's $1000 iPhone 6.

Last month, a 22-year-old Chinese international student said an apparently homeless man also made off with her iPhone 6 in Freyberg Square after he borrowed it to make an emergency call.


Auckland's Asian communities have been on edge following a recent spate of attacks, and some fear they are now the main target for thieves in the CBD.

"Asians are the target because thieves believe they always have the latest models of mobile phones, and also carry a lot of cash," said Songvut Manoonpong, president of the New Zealand Thai Society.

A woman who claims to know the inner workings of city thieving gangs said teenage girls were used on the "frontline" to steal hot-ticket items such as iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Speaking to the Herald on condition of anonymity, she said Asians were not specifically targeted, but are the most likely to become victims because they were the ones who would have these items.

"The girls would hand the stolen devices to a chief, who will sell them online through sites like Trade Me," she said.

"These girls get paid for doing the job, and they go back out on the streets to do it all over again."

Asians are the target because thieves believe they always have the latest models of mobile phones.


David Soh, an Auckland Chinese newspaper editor, bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for $310 through Trade Me which turned out to be stolen.

"The phone was defective and when I contacted the seller, all he did was send me a YouTube video link on how to unlock the phone without a password," he said.

Mr Soh called a number that was scribbled on the phone cover, and spoke to a woman who said the phone was stolen from her home earlier this year.

On Friday afternoon, the pair met at Glen Innes Police Station where Mr Soh handed the phone back.

"Police encourage anyone who is a victim of this type of crime to report it to the police," the spokeswoman said.

"Each incident will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and followed up as appropriate."

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