Pennsylvania Elected Officials Join International "Secure Our Smartphones" Initiative

Philadelphia Mayor Nutter, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane Join New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman In Urging Manufacturers To Better Protect Consumers

Schneiderman: We Must Continue To Put Pressure On The Smartphone Industry To Ensure The Safety Of Consumers, Help Save Innocent Lives

PHILADEPHIA – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, and Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown have joined the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative, which was launched by Attorney General Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón in June 2013. Co-chaired by Attorney General Schneiderman, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, and London Mayor Boris Johnson, this groundbreaking international coalition of law enforcement officers and consumer activists is working to encourage smartphone manufacturers to develop meaningful solutions to stop the rise of “Apple Picking” – the theft of popular mobile communications devices such as smartphones and tablets. 

In joining the S.O.S. Initiative, Mayor Nutter, Attorney General Kane and Councilwoman Reynolds Brown – as well as current members Philadelphia District Attorney Williams and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ramsey – represent a constituency affected by this serious crime. These leaders will add their powerful voices to call on the industry to develop a technological solution to protect consumers – such as a “kill switch” for stolen phones – and to dismantle the lucrative secondary market for stolen devices.

“Though most categories of crime are down in Philadelphia and nationwide, robberies are on the rise because of a spike in smartphone thefts,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I’m thankful that Attorney General Kane, Mayor Nutter and Councilwoman Reynolds Brown have joined us in demanding that smartphone manufacturers be better corporate citizens and take steps to ensure the safety of their consumers. By teaming up with leaders across the country, we can to continue to put pressure on this global industry and help save innocent lives.”

“I’m proud to join the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative,” said Mayor Nutter. “Smartphone and cell phone theft is a growing epidemic in cities and towns across the nation, accounting for more and more of the robberies on our streets. We are calling on cell phone manufactures to act as responsible corporate citizens by designing their products with technology that would render stolen phones inoperable, negating the incentive to steal them in the first place. Together, we can reduce cell phone thefts and increase the safety of our communities.”

"The underground market for smartphones is massive and lucrative, and it helps perpetuate violent robberies on our streets and public transportation," said Attorney General Kane. "The Office of the Attorney General is proud to partner with local, state and national law enforcement to support the S.O.S. initiative because it will reduce crime in communities across Pennsylvania."

“Criminals follow the money, and right now, all roads lead to cell phone theft. My office has collaborated with public safety officials from across the city and their data shows an unmistakable and alarming spike in crime related to smartphone theft. We are duty bound as elected officials to explore all avenues that lead to protecting citizens and minimizing the incentive for criminals,” said Councilwoman Reynolds Brown. “I am proud to join Attorney Generals Kathleen Kane, Eric Schneiderman and our Mayor, Michael A. Nutter, on this initiative. There are always better outcomes when there is a spirit of collaboration in tackling any insidious problem related to crime.” 

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, 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

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