Smartphone thefts rose in 2013
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio won election to the office, partially by promising to add more cops to the streets of the Big Apple. But he also has been asking smartphone manufacturers for a remote switch that would completely kill a phone, making it not worth stealing by criminals. New York City sees many thefts occur on public transportation, similar to Philadelphia. Last year, the City of Brotherly Love had 500 cell phones stolen on the trains, buses and platforms belonging to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. That was up 6% from 2012 and 44% from 2011.
New York and San Francisco police are using undercover cops, pretending to sell iPhones on the street, to arrest buyers. In theory, that lowers demand for stolen phones. The cops hope it will lead to a drop in supply, and thus the crime. At another level, the Attorneys General of New York and San Francisco have started a "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative aimed at getting that elusive "kill switch" added to all smartphones. Apple and Samsung have added features that would indeed kill stolen handsets with a click. Carriers have blocked Samsung's new feature from rolling out. Why would mobile operators do that? Simple, it preserves the profits they make by selling equipment insurance to new buyers.
Apple added an activation lock to iOS 7. This feature completely shuts down an iPhone in the event that someone tries to tamper with the "Find My iPhone" app. That is the app that can track a lost or stolen iPhone. When the lock is activated, the only way to get the affected iPhone working again, is to enter a username and password known only to the owner of the device.
Thanks, Anonymous Tipster!