Gabrielle Pearson and a group of friends headed out to Rácket Wynwood on NW 24th Street at Second Avenue this past Saturday night. When they arrived, the nightclub was packed, so they snagged a couple of seats at the bar. Pearson sent a quick text to her roommate and then slipped her iPhone X back into her purse. Minutes later, when she tried to check if her roommate had responded, the phone was gone.
“It only took five minutes for the thief to target me, brush up next to me, unlatch my purse, reach into it, and pull my iPhone X out,” Pearson tells New Times. “I was mortified. I ran to security to let them know what had just happened, and to my surprise — zero reaction.”
Pearson says the security guards at the club were blasé about the theft. They told her it happens all the time, she says, and didn’t do anything about it. She went to the front of the club to alert the bouncers, but they didn’t care either. Then, as Pearson stood at the entrance, another woman ran up to report her phone stolen.
“As I was standing there, my friends came to join me, when we all noticed a tall brunette running in our direction,” Pearson says. “She was hysterically calling for help, and she too was paid a visit by the pickpocket. They took advantage of the fact that the club was overpacked, and security turns their cheek or are in on it.”
Reviews on Google and Yelp for the club show Pearson and the brunette aren’t the only ones to say they’ve fallen victim to the phone-snatching scam at Rácket in the past several months. Six other people contend that they had their phones stolen at the club and that security didn’t do anything about it. Like Pearson, most of those making the claims mention there were others whose phones were stolen the same night.
Zane Hellenga, bar manager for Rácket, acknowledges there have been some thefts but says the club has responded. “Just like… any other nightclub, occasionally thieves target people who leave their phones out on the bar here,” he says. “But we always try to help. People should ask for the head of security or a manager if something like this happens.
“We don’t want to push anyone aside,” Hellenga adds. “I apologize that happened. That’s not how we are supposed to respond. Ordinarily, we would bring that to the attention of the authorities standing outside; we have a head of security that looks out for that sort of thing.”
But another woman who had her phone stolen on a Saturday night in late September tells New Times she also received no help when she alerted security to the problem. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, says she lost her personal information as well as tens of thousands of unstored photos and videos, along with the phone itself. She ended up reporting the incident to police, who eventually made an arrest, but ultimately, the man was found not guilty. The Miami Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
After Pearson and the tall brunette noticed their phones were stolen Saturday, November 3, they tried to use the Find My iPhone feature to locate them. The brunette’s phone was on for a moment and indicated the thief was still in the club, but it was quickly shut off, as was Pearson’s.
“As we were all standing by the front of the venue, being pushed to the side, another couple of girls got hit!” Pearson says. “They ran outside to inform security. In a matter of 30 minutes, four of us had our iPhones stolen.”
Pearson says she asked the bouncer if he was going to do anything about it, but he ignored her. She says she told the police officers standing outside about it, and they allegedly said, “It happens all the time.”
“At this point, I’m completely baffled, frustrated, and feeling totally violated,” Pearson says. “I am out $250 from my deductible and two days of work [because my work is dependent on my phone]. I’m hoping my message will create awareness and help prevent more women from getting taken advantage of at Rácket.”