There is a popular view, supported by statistics, that thieves steal iPhones because they are the coolest phones that fetch the most money on resale. Indeed, last year, the New York Police Departmentannounced that iPhones were involved in 14 percent of all the crime in the city.
However, a report released Thursday by “Secure Our Smartphones,” an initiative championed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, suggests thieves have experienced a change of heart.
In the first five months of 2014, New York robberies involving iPhones fell by 19 percent, said the report. The initiative — a coalition of mayors, district attorneys, police leaders, and attorneys general — credits Apple’s introduction of the Activation Lock. The feature ensures that, without your Apple ID and password, your iPhone cannot be used, erased, or reactivated. Activation Lock appeared with iOS7 and was immediately praised by law enforcement, which has sometimes had to use devious means to combat thieves.
While the decline of iPhone thefts is a good thing, it doesn’t mean NY thieves have stopped snatching smartphone. Members of the initiative said New York violent robberies involving Samsung phones, some of which may not have similar antitheft features installed, increased by 40 percent in the same period.
It isn’t just New York that has seen a change. In San Francisco, the six months after the introduction of Activation Lock saw iPhone thefts fall by 38 percent, compared to the six months before, according to the report. Samsung-related robberies in San Francisco rose 12 percent in the same period.
However, as the Huffington Post reports, San Francisco police believe that iPhone thefts rise considerably in the summer months, perhaps because more people are outdoors with their devices for longer.
Law enforcement is still pressing all manufacturers to preload “kill switch” technology onto every smartphone, something that the likes of Apple and Samsung have resisted. Microsoft and Google, however, on Thursday signed an agreement with the New York attorney general to add a “kill switch” to the next versions of their Windows Phone and Android mobile operating systems. For its part, the California Senate last month approved a kill-switch bill.
Still, there’s a long way to go. In the first months of 2014, 67 percent of all San Francisco robberies involved a smartphone, according to the report.
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