We are members of law enforcement, legislators from across the country, and consumer advocates. Collectively, we are responsible for the consumer protections and public safety of millions of Americans. In order to end the disturbing trend of robberies involving mobile communications devices, we have come together to create The Secure Our Smartphones Initiative.
It’s time for manufacturers and carriers to put public safety before corporate profits. In 2012, 1.6 million Americans were victimized for their smartphones. This is a growing epidemic affecting all corners of our nation and accounting for a majority of the robberies in our cities. Last year, 50 percent of the robberies in San Francisco involved a stolen mobile communications device. Washington D.C Police report smartphone theft accounting for 38 percent of their robberies, with Philadelphia Police reporting this type of theft accounting for 33 percent of all robberies. In New York City, 20 percent of all robberies involved the theft of a smartphone; a 40 percent increase in the past year. These crimes have led to severe injuries and the loss of life. The trend indicates that the problem will only get worse if manufacturers and carriers do not take immediate action.
We appreciate the incremental effort made to create the CTIA database. Unfortunately, it has not had an impact. It does not prevent phones that have been “jail breaked” from being reactivated. By far the clearest indication that the CTIA database has failed, however, is the fact that a similar database failed to slow cell phone thefts in the U.K., and the number of robberies in the U.S. has continued to rise since its implementation last year.
Unlike other types of crimes, manufacturers and carriers have the ability to end the growing number of smartphone thefts with a technological solution. The implementation of a “kill switch” would render stolen devices inoperable on any network, anywhere in the world. Such a feature would disable the device even if it is turned off or the SIM card has been removed. By eliminating the ability for the phone to be reactivated, the value of these mobile communications devices would be equivalent to that of a paperweight. As a result, the incentive to steal them would be eliminated.
We have seen technology prevent crime in the past. For example, when auto theft was on the rise in the 1990’s, manufacturers created anti-theft technology which greatly reduced vehicle thefts nationwide. Law enforcement worked hand in hand with manufacturers to harness a technological solution then, preventing crime and victimization, there’s no reason we cannot do it again.
With smartphone security firms indicating that manufacturers and carriers have the ability to implement a “kill switch” on all smartphones, the time for this technological solution to be realized is now. In the United States alone, smartphone manufacturers raked in over $69 billion in sales last year. Mobile communications device manufacturers and carriers have an opportunity to end the victimization of millions of Americans and demonstrate their corporate responsibility by implementing a “kill switch.”
Secure our Smartphones is unwavering in its commitment to public safety. With robberies involving mobile communication devices at an all-time high, we cannot stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available. Manufacturers and carriers have the opportunity to deter crime, eliminate the secondhand market for stolen mobile communications devices, and prevent their customers from becoming the next victim.