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Schneiderman Seeks Help To Curb Cell Phone Thefts

AG Wants Smartphone Makers To Do More To Protect Consumers
iPhone 5 (credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

iPhone 5 (credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York state’s attorney general asked smartphone makers on Monday to do more to protect consumers from violent street crimes known as “Apple picking,” or cellphone thefts.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he sent letters to top executives at Apple Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. seeking information about security efforts and asking them to work with his office to find ways to reduce theft. He said the mobile security company Lookout is advising his office on anti-theft measures.

“The companies that dominate this industry have a responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “This is a multi-billion dollar industry that produces some of the most popular and technologically advanced consumer electronic products in the world.  Surely we can work together to find solutions that lead to a reduction in violent street crime targeting consumers.”

Chris Guttman-McCabe, an executive with CTIA-The Wireless Association, said the industry group has been working with city, state and federal law enforcement agencies for more than a year on the issue and they’ve developed a comprehensive program to protect consumers and dry up the aftermarket for stolen phones.

That program includes a new database of stolen smartphones to prevent their activation, educating consumers about how to lock and password-protect their smartphones, and informing consumers about the many applications available to lock, erase or locate stolen phones.

In New York City, theft of Apple products has driven much of the increase in the theft of electronics, Schneiderman said. More than 11,000 iPhones and other Apple devices were reported stolen in the city between January 1 and September 2012, he said.

The incidents sometimes turn violent.

In April 2012, a man was killed for his iPhone on his way home to the Bronx and another man was stabbed during an iPhone theft.

Three people were stabbed in a fight over an iPhone on a Queens subway platform in February 2013, and a woman was mugged at gunpoint for her Android device in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn earlier this month.

In 2012, the NYPD launched a program that lets people register their devices so if they are lost or stolen, they can be traced back.

“There is a disproportionate amount of thefts of iPhones and phones in general,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said last year.

A recent study found lost and stolen cellphones cost consumers more than $30 billion last year, Schneiderman said.

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