Smartphone Theft Prevention Act would require smartphone makers to install kill switches that let consumers remotely delete data from stolen phones and render devices useless to thieves
Tonawanda Town Supervisor Anthony Caruana and Tonawanda Police Chief Anthony Palombo Join "Secure Our Smartphones" (S.O.S.) initiative
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was joined Saturday by Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins, Tonawanda Town Supervisor Anthony Caruana and Tonawanda Police Chief Anthony Palombo at the Tonawanda Police Department to announce Higgins' sponsorship of a bill - recently proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives - that would require a kill switch on smartphones to deter thieves and help end the violent epidemic of smartphone thefts.
Schneiderman also announced Caruana and Palombo joined the "Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.)" initiative, an 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.
"The 'Secure Our Smartphones' initiative has called on cell phone carriers and manufacturers to implement the technology necessary to put a stop to the growing issue of violent smartphone thefts," Schneiderman said. "I commend Congressman Higgins for his support and co-sponsorship of this revolutionary legislation that would require cell phone companies to finally put the safety of their customers above their bottom line. I also want to thank Supervisor Caruana and Chief Palombo for joining the initiative, and for their commitment to the safety and well-being of local families."
"Cell phone thefts cost consumers as a whole more than $30 billion a year, are a drain on valuable law enforcement resources, and are driven by a thriving underground resale market," Higgins said. "By removing rapid turnaround value, we create a barrier that helps to reduce the threat to personal data and the incentive for the crime to happen in the first place."
"The attorney general understands that keeping people safe in the communities we represent is vitally important," Caruana said. "Smartphone theft is on the rise across the state of New York, and I'm proud to announce that I have joined the attorney general's 'Secure Our Smartphones' coalition. I also want to thank Congressman Higgins for cosponsoring the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act."
"By working to raise awareness of this type of crime now, we will hopefully be able to prevent future thefts from occurring," Palombo said. "I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for making law enforcement a part of this coalition, and I urge the public to remember that smartphones are property that criminals may be looking for."
Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities across the U.S. 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 1.6 million Americans were victimized by smartphone thieves 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. 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.
The A.G. said street-level thieves feed a massive global marketplace for stolen phones that is too large or lucrative for any single community to stop. Mobile devices reported stolen in the U.S. and no longer able to access domestic cell networks can be reactivated to work in foreign countries.
Launched early last 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, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and London Mayor Boris Johnson. Members of the initiative are committed to pressing the industry to find an effective way to combat the rise of often-violent robberies involving smartphones.