They met someone on a popular dating app, started talking and eventually agreed to go out. Then the unsuspecting victims were robbed by that person and carjacked at gunpoint on their first dates.
Authorities are warning members of Atlanta’s LGBT community to remain cautious following a string of robberies that began as conversations on the popular gay dating app Grindr. Investigators said several men have been robbed in recent months and believe there may be additional victims who have not come forward.
At a news conference Wednesday, Atlanta police said they’ve identified at least eight people who were held up under similar circumstances since February, calling it “a very concerning pattern.”
The men typically introduce themselves on Grindr before chatting up their victims, getting their phone numbers and taking the conversations offline. Eventually, they ask them out.
“From February to May, we have had eight instances where male victims were lured to remote locations by use of the Grindr app,” said Sgt. Rodney Jones, who works in APD’s robbery unit. “After the date concludes, the suspect will rob the victim, often taking their wallets, keys or even vehicles.”
Late last month, one man said he was carjacked by someone he met on the app after picking up the suspect and driving him to an area off Hightower Road. Shortly after they arrived, however, his date pulled out a gun and told him: “Give me the car and everything you got.”
The suspect then drove off in the victim’s car, police said. The vehicle was later recovered, but investigators are still trying to figure out who is responsible for the string of robberies.
Most of the incidents have taken place in northwest Atlanta, but some have occurred in Zone 3 in the city’s southeastern quadrant, authorities said. The victims are typically lured to remote locations after their dates and then robbed.
“The person typically has a handgun,” Jones said. “They’re on a normal date, and after the date concludes they’ll just rob the person of their belongings.”
Police believe one person is responsible for most of the robberies in Zone 1 and said additional suspects are likely involved in the Zone 3 heists. Investigators said they have linked multiple robberies to a specific Grindr profile, but declined to elaborate at Wednesday’s news conference, citing the ongoing investigation.
Officer Eric King, the department’s LGBT liaison, said there are several things people can do to protect themselves when meeting someone for the first time.
“Find a partner or a friend that you trust that you can notify when you’re going to meet somebody,” King said. “Meet at a grocery store. Meet at a public place before you reconvene somewhere more intimate.”
“Listen to your inner voice,” he continued.
If someone refuses to FaceTime before a first date or insists on meeting in an isolated area, it might be a setup. King said residents are still encouraged to date online and go about their lives. He just wants them to be more cautious.
Anyone with information about the suspects, including those who may have been robbed on a recent date, is asked to call Atlanta police. For victims who may be hesitant about coming forward, King said officers are willing to come to them.
“We treat everybody with dignity,” Maj. D’Andrea Price said. “We want to stop these crimes that (are) being done to our sometimes vulnerable population.”
Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.
Note: Atlanta police said two images that were released and included in earlier versions of this story were not of the suspects.
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