Law enforcement officials blame carriers and OEMs for rising number of cellphone thefts

Law enforcement officials blame carriers and OEMs for rising number of cellphone thefts
With cellphone theft accounting for half of all robberies committed in San Francisco this year, up from the 36% it accounted for last year, San Francisco D.A. George Gascón is upset. "Unlike other types of crimes, this is a crime that could easily be fixed with a technological solution," the D.A. said, blaming Apple specifically for not using its technology to fix the problem. In Washington D.C., where 1,829 cellphones were taken in robberies last year, the chief of the D.C. Police Department put the blame on the carriers. "The carriers are not innocent in this whole game. They are making profit off this," noted Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

The problem, as most law enforcement experts see it, is that the cellphone industry has its head in the sand. "The cellphone industry has for the most part been in denial. For whatever reasons, it has been slow to move," stated Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

The carriers and manufacturers do say that they care. T-Mobile's vice president of product management, Jason Young, said, "If you’ve ever lost a phone or had one stolen, it’s a scary thing, it’s a painful thing and it’s a costly thing." Apple does have the "Find My iPhone" app which can find a stolen iPhone and remotely wipe the data from the device. Android users can download a third party app that can find a missing device.

And while a new database is supposed to keep track of each phone's unique identifier to prevent carriers from reactivating a stolen unit, tech-savvy criminals are removing the IMEI so that a phone can be hooked up to a network. Representative Eliot Engel from New York has proposed legislation that would make it a crime to modify the IMEI on a device. The reason it is not illegal in the U.S. is because the industry has argued that consumers need to have the right to remove the number to prevent them from being tracked.

But for now, with stolen iPhones fetching over $500 in San Francisco, and others ending up in Mexico, Vietnam and other countries, it is business as usual for the criminals.

source: NYTimes via AppleInsider

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34 Comments

1. buccob

Posts: 2952; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I am waiting for so long, for manufacturers to put a self destructing bomb on each phone that can be activated remotely by the owner.... with enough power to blow up the hands of thieves or if its in their pockets... well, blow up something else...

14. Azure01

Posts: 127; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Would suck for people who probably bought it from a pawn shop or ebay.

18. MikeG77

Posts: 425; Member since: Nov 24, 2008

Any legit seller on Ebay is going to make sure the IMEI is not stolen and can be activated.

19. buccob

Posts: 2952; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

LOL... I guess thats the price they paid for buying stolen phones...

32. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 912; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

That's why I only buy my second phones off of Craigslist. I meet with the seller and call my carrier on the spot before handing over my money to verify it's not a stolen phone.

2. MikeG77

Posts: 425; Member since: Nov 24, 2008

So let me get this straight the Police feel that its the carriers fault that one of there customers gets there phone stolen??? How about you blame the POS that are robbing people of there property. In regards to the IMEI there could be a database that a customer can add there phone to if they choose to but the tracking should not be mandatory. I can't believe the chief in DC and the DA in San Francisco because all these stupid people do is try to pass more laws that get us no where. Here is the solution for thieves who get caught.....you lose a hand or a finger for your crime and hopefully your smart enough to never steal something that does not belong to you ever again!

3. androiddownsouth

Posts: 598; Member since: May 02, 2012

So true. The problem lies with the person committing the robbery/theft, not the device that is stolen.

20. donfem

Posts: 708; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

I guess you didn't get it straight. The police did not say what you implied. The bottomline is that, the "carriers " are not doing enough.

25. MikeG77

Posts: 425; Member since: Nov 24, 2008

I actually i understand this situation just fine. Since your so smart i would like for you to tell me what the carriers can do to prevent someones phone from getting stolen. They sell you service, the phone and they offer insurance in the event your phone is lost stolen or damaged. Do you want the carrier to install tracking software on someones phone or to have someone watch your phone so it doesn't get stolen. Were all adults and we have to be responsible for our own actions the exception in this case is when someone tries to steal your phone and they have a gun or knife.

26. TheMan

Posts: 494; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

I can explain. Phones are stolen because they have value (duh), but if it were possible for a stolen device to be rendered useless by carriers because it couldn't be activated once stolen, then it could only be used for spare parts. And if demand drops, then so does value. That $500 hot iPhone 5 would only be worth say $100 for spare parts. Thefts won't go away, but if you can't make a fast 500, then you'll focus on stealing something else.

34. MyJobSux

Posts: 106; Member since: Apr 01, 2012

There are too many theives to stop them all. Some owners of the phones are just careless or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The article is saying that this type of crime, unlike others, could be prevented (meaning made more difficult) by using technology. Phones have unique identifiers. Some of the identifiers arent unique but a few are. 2 things that have not been listed yet are the WiFi MAC and the Bluetooth MAC. Carriers and OEM are not using their abilities to flag these phones as being stolen and not reactivate them on their network. One issue brought up is that people dont want to be tracked. So were at a place where its a 'damned-if-I-do & damned-if-I-dont' because people dont want to be tracked but they want their phone back if something happens so they dont have to buy a new one. Ultimately, i think the OEM should devise a way to mark their phones with a identification that cant be overwritten and will always show up with the carrier. Phones will still be stolen but the idea is to make it much less profitable. If the trouble is not worth the profit then criminals will move to something else. The only thing is, what is next on the list?

24. meowcenary

Posts: 187; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

How about people own up to their responsibility of having situational awareness? Many times I see people walking down the street, on public transport, in cafes, and such oblivious to their surroundings. It's no one's fault except you the idot users that decide to put yourselves in a tactical disadvantage. Hell don't get me started with those that SMS, MMS, or talk on their phoes while driving. Society as a whole has gone down the proverbial/literal toilet, people do not comprehend honor, respect, and owning up to their responsibilities.....until we once again become responsibile again, we will see agencies that are not suppose to be involved handling civilian affairs.

31. quakan

Posts: 1418; Member since: Mar 02, 2011

So blame the victims? Yeah it's their fault that someone else chose to rob them.

33. meowcenary

Posts: 187; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

If you put yourself at a tactical disadvantage and fail to pay attention to your surrounding and consume/use your technology it is your fault for aiding a theif. Now if you were aware and someone robbed you the it is a different story. So again own up to it friendo

4. Nikolas.Oliver

Posts: 1574; Member since: Jul 01, 2012

If someone were to steal my phone. They'd be so f*cked up. I can take a picture using the front-facing canera. I can pop a message out. I can track their location, i can record a video and voice. I can wipe all my data. I can lock my phone. All of that remotely Anyone wanna try?

5. MikeG77

Posts: 425; Member since: Nov 24, 2008

Even if you can do all that the phone is still stolen!

6. buccob

Posts: 2952; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

In real life thats not how robbery works... in my country the crime has been record high lately... I have had 2 of my last 4 phones stolen... First what the thief do is take the battery out if possible, if not just turn the phone off... Then they go to a safe location, probably under buildings that makes difficult GPS positioning... and take the SIM Card out... Now that the phone is not able to connect to any network, they give it to somebody who can hack, delete IMEI, clone numbers, etc... and after your phone is wiped they have themself a new phone.... Hopefully you had a pattern lock, or password protected phone... otherwise I recommend to go home and also change all of your accounts passwords...

10. Nikolas.Oliver

Posts: 1574; Member since: Jul 01, 2012

My phone has double security : face unlock + 6 x 6 They really can't do anything if they can't access it

12. buccob

Posts: 2952; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

They always can... They can disassemble it and sell the parts to repair shops. Given that you have a nexus is a good thing, since you don't have a micro SD which was a mistake I made by putting my pictures in there... not anymore... pictures and personal files only inside internal memory... music and movies... microSD But keep in mind that if they stole it, you simply lose it most of the time. End of story...

16. Razorback556

Posts: 9; Member since: Dec 18, 2012

After a hard key reset non of those features will still be on there.

17. SellPhones82

Posts: 569; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

Exactly what I was going to reply with! Boot into stock recovery and WIPE! No more face unlock though all personal info is also gone except for anything that might be on the SD card. Anything that uses a SIM card can be worked around one way or another.

30. Nikolas.Oliver

Posts: 1574; Member since: Jul 01, 2012

If only i could put a password on recovery

15. Azure01

Posts: 127; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Using which app? I just started using the lookout app and I know it takes a pic after you mess up the password three times. Your app sounds 10X better though.

29. Nikolas.Oliver

Posts: 1574; Member since: Jul 01, 2012

Cerberus

7. FlushGordon unregistered

Juat buy a no brand $100 android China phone...problem solved

8. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

.......problem not solved, a no brand China phone may be dangerous you know, for safety, I'd rather spend a bit more money to buy a Huawei smartphone instead, thefts don't know what is a Huawei right? PROBLEM SOLVED!

9. CivicSi89

Posts: 349; Member since: Jul 23, 2011

One of my best friends got jacked for his iPhone on the Blue line in Chicago by some stupid teenagers. At Gun Point! Im so happy he is ok. But they wanted nothing more than his iphone. Not his wallet. Not his expensive watch. Just his iPhone. And that is rediculous. Seriously. He switched to Android because he said having an iPhone isnt worth the hassle. But Even GS3's and GN2's are hot in Chicago right now. But Be careful. If you have an iPad or iPhone on a train. A bus. or even in public.(had another friend get robbed in broad daylight at the North Ave Beach) It can cost you more than what you think. Just give the idiots what they want and keep moving on. No Device is worth your life. But seriously. It is getting bad that people have resorted to jacking smartphones because they can be easily taking to a resale shop or sold on the corner for a quick $400. Stay safe everyone.

11. MikeG77

Posts: 425; Member since: Nov 24, 2008

Well thats s**tcago for you. That city is cesspool for criminals yet the police let these animals run free. These little hood rats do this crap because they know your not armed and they know you probably got insurance so its no big deal for you.

13. CivicSi89

Posts: 349; Member since: Jul 23, 2011

Well i do agree with ya (outside of the s**tcago thing. i love my city) Its kinda annoying. And Yeah i have insurance. but im a big guy so i dont worry as much. But it seems so prevalent that you'd think something would have already happened about all this crap.

22. TheLolGuy

Posts: 483; Member since: Mar 05, 2013

I hope they do more about this issue though, because it'll only get a lot worse. With things like Google Glass, all types of smartwatches and wearable electronics, people will be 'carrying' more wealth on them more than ever before. When most everything is mobile and 'on you' there is so much more to lose, and much more opportunity for the criminal. That is, unless something changes...

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