Apparently the modern day purse/wallet snatching has been some what replaced by something much more attractive to thieves across the country, Cell phones. There has been a crime wave from coast to coast where the numbers of thefts of cell phones, particularly smartphones, are increasing by the year. The latest reports indicate in cities like New York, more than 40 percent of all robberies now involve smartphones. In Los Angeles, cell phone thefts account for more than a quarter of all the city's robberies, and are up 27 percent from this time a year ago according to L.A.P.D.
It’s easy to see why. With the technology of today’s phones people have a lot more information on a cell phone than just phone numbers. With apps loaded that provide other info that thieves could very easily gain access to (depending on how much you load on your phone) stealing a smartphone gives you a lot more that a driver’s license and some credit cards. There is also the high and easy resell value of mobile phones that makes them easy for thieves to fence with very little repercussions. Basically thieves know carrying a smartphone is like carrying around hundreds of dollars.
This has become such an issue in some major cities that police have attempted to put measures into place to help prevent theft. Case and point - when the iPhone 5 went on sale, police in NYC set up a table outside stores trying to encourage folks to to register their phone's serial numbers with the department. Just months before, a 26-year-old chef at the Museum of Modern Art was killed for his iPhone while heading home to the Bronx. That’s correct -- he was killed for a phone, and the victim’s wallet, was left intact.
Remember all those talks about how we would all eventually stop carrying wallets and how our mobile phones would become our main source of identification, communication and commerce? While these proclamations haven’t fully come to fruition, the evolution of smartphones as they are makes it very easy for you to store a substantial amount of information on these devices and thus a great thing for thieves to steal.
It’s a crime of opportunity. People leave them on tables, have their phones very visible and provide easy picking for robbers or as the new term being bandied about implies, “Apple Picking.” Thieves often strike when people are getting on and off trains and buses. They will quickly grab a phone and run from the train or bus. By the time you get around to getting that phone disabled the damage would have already been done. The end result? These thefts are costing consumers millions of dollars and causing major problems for law enforcement and wireless carriers who are looking for a solution.
What’s Being Done About It?
Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that the major U.S. cellphone carriers (Sprint, At&T, Verizon, T-Mobile) and the Federal Communications Commission agreed to set up a national database to track reported stolen phones. It is scheduled to launch in late 2013 (too bad if your phone gets jacked between now and then)
Schumer also introduced a bill called the Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act, which if passed with carry with it five years in jail for tampering with the ID numbers of a stolen smartphone.
“Hey what’s that new dude in here for?”
“Oh man he’s bad to the bone. He got busted for hacking phones and tampering with the ID numbers.”
The bill is supported by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), a Washington, D.C. advocacy group. In addition, CTIA officials said the four main carriers are expected to launch individual databases later this month to permanently disable a cellphone reported stolen. Not surprisingly, there are a few apps out there that can help keep your phone somewhat safe but none of them are foolproof by any stretch of the imagination.
Bottom line -- the issue is being recognized and addressed, but until there are standard measures in place, it’s up to you to keep your phone out of the hands of the apple pickers. It may also have you reconsidering just how much information you put on your phone and how easily accessible that information is if it were to get into the wrong hands.