Cities with crime problems ask smartphone companies to solve crime problems

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Smartphone thefts are a huge problem: if you haven’t had one stolen from you, you very likely know someone who has — and possibly in a violent way. But whose problem is this? Two elected officials are pointing fingers at the manufacturers of your smartphone.

On June 13, representatives from Apple, Google (parent company of Motorola), Microsoft and Samsung are meeting with top law enforcement officials in the U.S.’s two biggest markets for smartphone thefts, San Francisco and New York City: SF District Attorney George Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The two will demand to know why these companies haven’t made smartphones harder to steal or at least less attractive to thieves.

Gascón is calling it “a national epidemic” and Schneiderman says it’s about time for these companies “to be as innovative solving this problem as they have been in designing devices.”

From the joint press release issued by their offices on Wednesday.

At the meeting, which will take place on June 13 at Schneiderman’s office in New York City, Gascón and Schneiderman will press cell phone manufacturers and mobile operating system suppliers on their failure thus far to produce technology that would allow stolen devices to be rendered permanently inoperable and that would, therefore, eliminate incentives for theft. Representatives from Apple, Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft will attend.

It appears current measures in place aren’t helping cut down on the problem. Carriers and the FCC worked together last year to create a national stolen phone database to prevent resale, and third-party consumer electronics resellers have also stepped up their efforts to prevent subsequent selling of stolen devices. Yet half of the robberies in San Francisco last year involved a smartphone, and New York City thefts ticked up last year as more Apple device thefts were reported.

Clearly Gascón and Schneiderman want the manufacturers to take a larger role in helping to stop these thefts beyond things like the ability to remote wipe a device through Find My iPhone — which would be nice. However, declaring their “failure to produce technology that would allow stolen devices to be rendered permanently inoperable” seems just a bit unfair. That seems like asking — since 700,000 cars were stolen in 2011 — why automakers haven’t created cars that aren’t drivable if they’re stolen.

In both cases, that seems like a great idea, but it’s probably just a bit more complicated than Gascón and Schneiderman are assuming.

Thumnail image courtesy of Flickr user Tex Texin.

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