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Schneiderman, de Blasio team up to protect New Yorkers from wave of smartphone theft

by jmaloni

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Mon, Oct 21st 2013 04:30 pm

de Blasio to join international "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative; public advocate calls on manufacturers to better protect New Yorkers

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has joined the "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative, also known as "S.O.S.," a groundbreaking international coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, attorneys general, public officials and consumer activists working to encourage the smartphone industry to implement meaningful solutions to stop the epidemic known as "apple picking" - the theft of popular mobile communications devices such as smartphones and tablets. 

In joining the S.O.S initiative, de Blasio is now the highest-ranking New York City official to join the coalition, which was created earlier this year by Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. In addition to joining the S.O.S initiative, de Blasio also announced he is sending a letter to the four leading smartphone manufacturers - Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft - urging them to develop a technological solution that will protect New York City smartphone users by eliminating the incentive for theft. 

"The epidemic of violent street crime involving the theft of mobile devices is a global problem that demands a global solution," Schneiderman said. "I'm glad that Public Advocate de Blasio has joined the global effort to protect consumers by demanding that smartphone manufacturers find a way to make sure that stolen devices cannot be sold in the lucrative secondary markets around the world, thereby eliminating the perverse incentives that put so many members of our community at risk. By teaming up with law enforcement and policy leaders, we are sending a powerful message to the multinational corporations that dominate the electronics industry: They must be good corporate citizens and take steps to ensure the safety of their consumers and our citizens." 

"These are dangerous crimes, often committed at the point of a knife or a gun. We can stop this trend in its tracks, but we need manufacturers' help to do it. With better theft deterrence, we can prevent these crimes before they happen," de Blasio said. "I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for taking this problem head-on and working directly with manufacturers do it."

Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities across the United States and the United Kingdom, the theft of smartphones has spiked dramatically. In the U.S., one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device. Consumer Reports estimates smartphone thieves victimized 1.6 million Americans in 2012.

Last year, 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco targeted such a device. In New York City, the number was 20 percent, a 40 percent increase from the year before. Just last week, a half a dozen teenagers beat a 36-year-old New York City man for his iPhone. In London, although crime overall is falling, offenses such as pickpocketing and bag snatches have risen by more than 15 percent this year. This is mainly driven by the theft of phones, with some 10,000 handsets stolen in the city every month.

Street-level thieves feed a massive global marketplace for stolen phones that is too large or lucrative for any single community to stop, the A.G. said. Mobile devices that are reported stolen in the U.S. and no longer able to access domestic cell networks can be reactivated to work in foreign countries. In Hong Kong, for example, iPhones are worth upward of $2,000 apiece.

The Secure Our Smartphone initiative is working to encourage the industry to find technological solutions that will remove the economic value of stolen smartphones, thereby drying up secondary markets and ending "apple picking." 

In June, Schneiderman and Gascón met with representatives from Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft at a "Smartphone Summit" convened in New York. Following that meeting and a test of smartphone security features in July, earlier this month London Mayor Boris Johnson joined the S.O.S. initiative as co-chairman.

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