Police say a group of robbers on the West Bank in Minneapolis have an unusual strategy -- they are nice and chatty to get near a victim before throwing punches and getting away with some high-tech gadgets.
According to officers, the robbers begin by casually asking for a cigarette or directions.
"I think one of the guys was hitting on me," said Clair McRaith, one such robbery victim. "I mean honestly, he was like, 'Got a boyfriend?'"
McRaith said she had no idea the pair of guys who were chatting her up after she left the Republic with a friend on Sunday night were about to rob her. Meanwhile, across Cedar Avenue, one of them already had her friend's phone in his hands.
"It was so casual," she recalled. "I didn't get scared until they took a swing at him, and then I was like, 'What is going on?'"
But when McRaith pulled out her phone to call 911, the thieves just added it to their collection.
"I looked at the guy I had been talking to and said, 'Are you kidding me?'" she recalled. "At the moment, I was livid -- and then, when I found out there were others, I was like, 'It could have been so much worse.'"
A couple of hours earlier, police say the same group was less nice when they approached Cooper Cullen.
"All of a sudden, I got tackled from behind," Cullen recalled. "When I got tackled, I fell on top of the person who tackled me, and then the other two came up and started kicking me -- and started to pull away my bag from my arm."
All the thieves got away with was a calculator he uses for classes at the nearby University of Minnesota, but police say that group of three to five young men all fit the same description given by five people who were targeted on Sunday night. Some were walking in pairs, and just one was walking alone.
Officials say the group is using distraction tactics. Police recommend walking with a group if possible and keeping phones out of sight.