US Law Enforcement Agencies Call For “Kill-Switch” from Smartphone OEMs to Address Smartphone Theft Epidemic

by Istvan Fekete on May 14, 2013

US law enforcement agencies are looking for ways to fight the growing problem of smartphone theft, which is being described as a “nationwide epidemic”.

The first to raise his voice and take action was George Gascón, San Francisco district attorney. He points to alarming statistics: in San Francisco last year, nearly half of all robberies involved a cellphone, up 36% from the previous year ; in Washington cellphones were taken in 42% of robberies; in New York, iPhone and iPad theft accounted for 14% of all crimes in 2012.

Gascón went as far as paying an official visit to smartphone manufacturers such as Apple, and asked for a smartphone “kill-switch”, which would help officials address smartphone theft.

Gascón was seconded yesterday by Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, who wrote a letter to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung Electronics seeking information about what the companies are doing to combat theft of their devices in the state of New York.

According to fresh information compiled by Bloomberg based on New York City Police data, Apple products were stolen in a total of 11,447 incidents last year between January 1 and September 23, an increase of 40% compared to the previous year.

The call for action comes after the nationwide stolen phone database — launched with great fanfare – has failed to show any visible result. For those who may be unaware, there is a US database of stolen cellphones, which blacklists the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of a stolen or lost cellphone, with the aim of preventing it from being reactivated on another network and discouraging thieves from taking it in the first place.


In practice, the database has shown no result, despite all major wireless carriers contributing to the database, because of the database flaws: it has no effect overseas. And, as recent reports have pointed out, the majority of stolen devices end up in the hands of users overseas.

Now it remains to be seen whether the anticipated Canadian stolen phone database will have the same results. At launch it will be a step ahead of the US database, as it will incorporate both Canadian and American IMEI numbers.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gordon M May 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

Great idea yet it will unlikely ever happen since the replacements are tangible revenue to the manufacturers.

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