A.G. Schneiderman, NYC Public Advocate Bill De Blasio Team Up To Protect New Yorkers From Wave Of Smartphone Theft

Public Advocate de Blasio To Join International "Secure Our Smartphones" Initiative, Calls On Manufacturers To Better Protect New Yorkers

Schneiderman: Industry And Public Officials Must Work Together To End The Epidemic Of Violent, Often Deadly Smartphone Thefts Plaguing New York

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has joined the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative, a groundbreaking international coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, attorneys general, public officials and consumer activists working to encourage the smartphone industry to implement meaningful solutions to stop the epidemic known as “Apple Picking” – the theft of popular mobile communications devices such as smartphones and tablets. 

In joining the S.O.S Initiative, de Blasio is now the highest-ranking New York City official to join the coalition, which was created earlier this year by Attorney General Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. In addition to joining the S.O.S Initiative, de Blasio also announced that he is sending a letter to the four leading smartphone manufacturers -- Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft – urging them to develop a technological solution that will protect New York City smartphone users by eliminating the incentive for theft. 

“The epidemic of violent street crime involving the theft of mobile devices is a global problem that demands a global solution,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I’m glad that Public Advocate de Blasio has joined the global effort to protect consumers by demanding that smartphone manufacturers find a way to make sure that stolen devices cannot be sold in the lucrative secondary markets around the world, thereby eliminating the perverse incentives that put so many members of our community at risk. By teaming up with law enforcement and policy leaders, we are sending a powerful message to the multi-national corporations that dominate the electronics industry: They must be good corporate citizens and take steps to ensure the safety of their consumers and our citizens.” 

"These are dangerous crimes, often committed at the point of a knife or a gun. We can stop this trend in its tracks but we need manufacturers' help to do it. With better theft deterrence, we can prevent these crimes before they happen," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. "I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for taking this problem head-on and working directly with manufacturers do it."

Launched earlier this year, the S.O.S Initiative is a groundbreaking coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, attorneys general, state and city comptrollers and consumer activists working to encourage the smartphone industry to implement meaningful solutions to stop the epidemic known as “Apple Picking” – the theft of popular mobile communications devices such as smartphones and tablets. The frequency of such incidents is staggering.

Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities across the United States and the United Kingdom, the theft of smartphones has spiked dramatically. In the United States, one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device. Consumer Reports estimates that 1.6 million Americans were victimized by smartphone thieves in 2012.

Last year, 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco targeted such a device. In New York City, the number was 20 percent, a 40 percent increase from the year before. Just last week, a half a dozen teenagers beat a 36-year-old New York City man for his iPhone. In London, although crime overall is falling, offenses such as pickpocketing and bag snatches have risen by more than 15 percent this year. This is mainly driven by the theft of phones, with some 10,000 handsets stolen in the city every month.

Street-level thieves feed a massive global marketplace for stolen phones that is too large or lucrative for any single community to stop. Mobile devices that are reported stolen in the United States and no longer able to access domestic cell networks can be reactivated to work in foreign countries. In Hong Kong, for example, iPhones are worth upward of $2,000 apiece.

The Secure Our Smartphone Initiative is working to encourage the industry to find technological solutions that will remove the economic value of stolen smartphones, thereby drying up secondary markets and ending the national epidemic of violent street crimes commonly known as “apple picking.” 

In June, Attorney General Schneiderman and District Attorney Gascón met with representatives from Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft at a Smartphone Summit convened in New York. Following that meeting and a test of smartphone security features in July, earlier this month London Mayor Boris Johnson joined the S.O.S. initiative as co-chairman.

For more information on efforts by Attorney General Schneiderman, District Attorney Gascón and London Mayor Boris Johnson and your local officials to combat “Apple Picking,” visit the San Francisco District Attorney’s website, the New York State Attorney General’s website or the London Mayor's website

A copy of the Public Advocate's letter to smartphone manufacturers can be read here.

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