Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
It's a small crime that can have some big consequences. And it's happening more often, especially in a part of the city where crowds are gathering for the French Quarter Festival.
It's the perfect recipe for a crime. It's hot and you're drinking alcohol. There's non-stop entertainment, sights and music. And there are people, in fact lots of them.
"They are huge. It's been just outstanding. The crowds are the biggest I've seen since in, well, I've been here," said Commander Eddie Hosli of New Orleans Police 8th District.
There are distractions one after another, now during the French Quarter Festival or really anytime people are gathered and partying.
And all of those distraction represent opportunity, not for the people who come down to the French Quarter or the festival to listen to music and have a good time, but for people who come down to the French Quarter to take advantage of you.
"We've seen some increases in theft and it's random stuff. Somebody might go into one of the clubs and put their purse on the counter or put their purse on the floor next to them and go dance, come back, and their wallet might be missing," said Hosli.
The Eighth District crime maps from the New Orleans Police Department, show the number of thefts in the French Quarter and surrounding area during the last two weeks. They are marked by yellow dots. But they are real people who had a wallet, purse, credit card or cell phone, particularly the iPhone, taken when they weren't paying attention.
"They were the leading contributor. Last year for my simple robberies were cell phones, were the biggest reason for it," explained Hosli.
While cell phone thefts have recently gone down, the thought of losing that little handheld device to some, means losing your identity.
"It's really a port probably into my whole life that's on my computer at home. This right here. So if somebody gets it, and they know what to do with it, they can probably find my bank accounts, find all kinds of information," Laurie Becker of New Orleans said pointing to her smart phone.
Police say they have made arrests in these types of crimes and have ways of catching people who steal cell phones. A mounted officer, in the past, spotted one phone thief and used his horse to chase him down.
So bottom line, police have this advice.
"People need to remember to use common sense," added Hosli.
And that's exactly what one woman does with her purse when she's out to have a good time.
"I'm smart enough to leave it at home, because you're going to lose it or something's going to happen to it. You're going to get drunk and get crazy and start dancing. Someone's going to pick it up. You even just mistakenly pick up someone else's purse. That's happened to me before," said Elizabeth Granado, who was with friends at a bar on Bourbon Street.
So far during the French Quarter Festival, police say the crowds have been calm and there have been no reports of any serious problems.