Attorneys general nationwide sign onto international coalition encouraging smartphone maker to protect the safety of consumers
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden today announced 31 attorneys general have signed onto a letter urging three of the leading smartphone manufacturers - Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft - to develop a technological means to protect smartphone users in their states by drying up secondary markets for stolen devices and eliminate the economic incentive for theft. With this new letter, this bipartisan group of attorneys general is now member to the "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative, a groundbreaking effort to encourage the smartphone industry to implement a meaningful solution to end a disturbing trend of robberies involving mobile communication devices, known as "Apple Picking."
"Manufacturers and carriers need to put public safety before corporate profits and stop this violent epidemic, which has put millions of smartphone users at risk," Schneiderman said. "While we are encouraged by the new, anti-theft security features presented by some smartphone makers, the seriousness of this issue demands a more robust response. I'm glad that my fellow attorneys general have joined our global chorus, increasing awareness of these crimes and insisting that the industry develop a proactive measure to ensure the safety of our citizens."
"The growing popularity of smartphones has made them valuable targets for thieves who sell them on black markets across the country and around the world," Biden said. "We're concerned that this thriving black market puts consumers needlessly at risk of theft and violence. That's why attorneys general from across the country have joined together to press the smartphone industry, which can and should do more to develop anti-theft features that reduce or eliminate the value of these devices to criminals."
George Gascón, San Francisco district attorney and "S.O.S." initiative co-chair, said, "The broad reach of this coalition reflects the broad impacts of this epidemic. Law enforcement officials across the country and around the globe are responding to a new era in which technology has resulted in millions of Americans being victimized for their smartphones. But we're not helpless; smartphone manufacturers have the capacity to implement theft-deterrent features that can end this worldwide epidemic of violent robberies once and for all."
Launched earlier this year, the S.O.S. initiative is an international coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, state and city comptrollers, and public safety activists co-chaired by Schneiderman, Gascón and London Mayor Boris Johnson. By joining the initiative, the attorneys general committed to press this industry to find an effective way to combat the rise in violent street crimes involving smartphone thefts.
Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities worldwide, the theft of smartphones has spiked dramatically. In the U.S., one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device. Consumer Reports estimates 1.6 million Americans were victimized by smartphone thieves in 2012.
Last year, 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco targeted such devices. In New York City, the number was 20 percent - a 40 percent increase from the year before. Recently, a half-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 AG said. Mobile devices that are reported stolen in the U.S. and are 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 states that signed on to the S.O.S. initiative today are: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont, as well as the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. They join the eight current S.O.S. initiative members: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York.
For more information on efforts by Schneiderman, Gascón, Johnson and your local officials to combat "Apple Picking," visit the San Francisco district attorney's website, the New York state attorney general's website or the London mayor's website.
A copy of the letter sent by the attorneys general to smartphone manufacturers can be read here.