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Crime Cellphones Handhelds Stats United States Technology

Smartphones Driving Violent Crime Across US 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the there's-an-app-for-that dept.
alphadogg writes "Incidents of cellphone theft have been rising for several years and are fast becoming an epidemic. IDG News Service collected data on serious crimes in San Francisco from November to April and recorded 579 thefts of cellphones or tablets, accounting for 41 percent of all serious crime. In just over half the incidents, victims were punched, kicked or otherwise physically intimidated for their phones, and in a quarter of robberies, users were threatened with guns or knives. This isn't just happening in tech-loving San Francisco, either. The picture is similar across the United States. A big reason for such thefts, until recently, is that there had been little to stop someone using a stolen cellphone. Reacting to pressure from law enforcement and regulators, the U.S.'s largest cellphone carriers agreed early last year to establish a database of stolen cellphones."
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Smartphones Driving Violent Crime Across US

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  • by dadelbunts (1727498) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @10:44AM (#43695287)
    We should enact more stringent controls for cellphone ownership. These cell nuts going around with their smartphones putting us all in danger. What do you need a 30 app mag for realistically. How am i supposed to be safe when any criminal/cell nut can just pull out their cellphone and thats it, bang, im dead.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMEI

  • Steeling the most shiny, but least valuable shit because they just don't understand. They lack knowledge. And if they had it they wouldn't need to resort to steeling it.

    I'm not saying this is true in every case, but probably in greater then 70% of them.

    • Least valuable? Do you know how much smart phones cost? I mean really cost, not "With 2 year contract." How about looking at the used value on Craigslist, because that is what you can get for 2 minutes work.
      • I'm talking about their intrinsic value. And once you've stolen one it still needs to be wiped, reconfigured, whatever. Right now it's pretty easy, but its going to increasingly become cost in-efficient. And any good phone I know bricks itself from a server command. Blackberries.

        My 10 year old phone still works fine for SMS, email, browsing the web. The latest shiny shit is just shiny shit. That phone may be 100$ on the new market but its going to be like 40$ if that on the black market.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          iphones can be worth 100-200(newest) just in parts besides the motherboard(that is, even if it's wiped and unusable condition).

          they're not stealing the phones which are 100 bucks new. they're stealing the phones which are 600-700 bucks new(or phones which they think might be that).

          • they're not stealing the phones which are 100 bucks new. they're stealing the phones which are 600-700 bucks new(or phones which they think might be that).

            Read an article recently about this. Seems that in one case, a couple thugs held up some woman for her iPhone, then when they had it in hand, looked closely, realized it wasn't the latest iPhone, and gave it back to her....

            • by X0563511 (793323)

              Well, if you're going to do it, be polite.

              They could have ran off with it anyway, or injured her for the trouble.

      • The thief should just sign up a 2 year contract, then not pay for it.

        Maybe just report your phone was stolen by Chechen rebels terrorists, DHS will find it in 5mins.

    • They lack knowledge. And if they had it they wouldn't need to resort to steeling it.

      Oh, now *there's* some IRONy for ya'! :P

  • Stupid situation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @10:56AM (#43695395) Homepage Journal

    Such a stupid situation that could be solved easily.

    If the carriers had a service for the owner to remotely brick and unbrick the phone as well as transfer ownership (with the ability to brick) to another person this would be a non-issue.

    It's a service that makes owning the phone more valuable to the end-user; yet, it's an externality to the phone companies. Rather than provide the best possible product and services, they do the barest minimum and reap unjustly high profits. They can do this because they operate out of the normal reach of capitalism - the state-sponsored monopoly. With a stranglehold on public property and the blessings of their government lawmakers, they can do pretty-much whatever they want. Capitalism has failed, therefore we need more government regulation.

    That should greatly shorten this discussion. Did I miss any memes?

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      At the very least when I report that my phone was stolen, then the uniq id in the phone could be traced so if anyone tried to activate it MY phone could be recovered.

    • That should greatly shorten this discussion. Did I miss any memes?

      Only if you want to count the Drug War, which drives up drug prices and prevents treatment, leaving addicts to turn to petty crime. I think the last estimate was in the low 80% range of home burglaries being drug-addict related. Talk about externalities - all the people who are being robbed and burglarized are paying to this government program.

      Capitalism has failed, therefore we need more government regulation.

      Oh, right, the goal is more go

    • Re:Stupid situation (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sulphur (1548251) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @12:22PM (#43696033)

      If the carriers had a service for the owner to remotely brick and unbrick the phone as well as transfer ownership (with the ability to brick) to another person this would be a non-issue.

      Brick or brick not. There is no unbrick.

      --

      I live in an unbrick house.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Brick or brick not. There is no unbrick.

        Recoverable with JTAG is considered by most to be bricked. But there's no remote unbrick. There is only remote lock and unlock, and on some devices that requires testpoint access.

        • Recoverable with JTAG is considered by most to be bricked.

          But they're wrong.

          It is an especially relevant distinction in this case, where a thief could unbrick it since he has physical access. And a particular thief might not be able to, but he'll have connections who can, or something.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's no unbricking. I had a phone get reported stolen by an ex that wanted to fuck with me, and it was banned. All I got was the runaround whenever I went to the store or complained. They just told me to buy a new phone and here are our great offers for today. It has a happy ending though, I got a settlement form the phone company and got my ex arrested (who plead guilty to fraud, but got it lowered to a misdemeanor). Not a week later the same thing happened to my new phone, and this time the phone

    • I'm curious how a public property would work on an unregulated market. Surely you're not suggesting no regulation. How would an infrastructure not lead to a natural monopoly? AT&T would be the only company if there were no rules. If you think their should be some regulation why don't you suggest that instead of attacking regulation in general?
      • Suppose I own a museum and seek to make money by charging admission.

        If seeing the museum has a certain importance to people - people must see the museum once in their lives, for instance - then I maximize my profit by raising prices as high as the situation will bear. To the limit that people need to see the museum, I can extract the most money.

        Suppose instead the government fixes the museum ticket price but says nothing about how many people see the museum per day. Since I cannot raise prices I must sell m

  • Would they add some sort of hard-coded serial number chip that phones home whenever the device is online? I strongly doubt that such a feature would remain uncracked for very long. At best, it might be something that an observant Craigslist buyer could use to distinguish a hacked device from an unhacked one. I think that's the first realistic goal to aim at. I was close to buying an iPod Touch on Craigslist, but backed out because the situation seemed shady, and I didn't know how to verify whether the devic
  • Most of these criminals aren't reselling these devices at pawn shops or on Craig's list either. GameStop has made it very easy to take any modern smartphone or tablet into their store fronts for cash. They then take these devices that they got on the cheap and send them out to rural communities and sell them for just a shade under retail. GameStop's uncaring jerk wad management strikes again.

  • by frdmfghtr (603968) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @11:22AM (#43695633)

    When airplanes started to become more common, the number of crashes took off (no pun intended) simply because there were airplanes to crash.

    The annual theft rate for automobiles was a perfect zero...until of course the automobile was invented.

    It seems to me that accidents, crimes involving a particular technology, popular fashion item, etc. are naturally going to become a more significant portion of overall crime as they become popular. It reminds me of the sudden uptick in sneaker thefts when Air Jordans became popular.

  • by jazman_777 (44742) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @11:28AM (#43695671) Homepage
    It's obvious that people feel that they don't need to be alert to their surroundings. That is madness. This crime wave is basically the result of people making themselves easy targets. I know our world may shriek "blaming the victim", but you really ought to be on guard, it's your responsibility, it's your stuff, it's your life.
  • In the 70's (Score:4, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday May 11, 2013 @11:42AM (#43695763) Homepage

    As I write whenever the topic of smartphone muggings come up:

    In the 70's, people were held up for their watch and cash (remember cash?). Different decade, different stuff.

  • Even a properly blacklisted iPhone 5 is worth well over $200 for parts or for export into an area where blacklisting does not apply. To slow this type of violent crime the police and courts need to treat it more seriously. It is easy to spot an iPhone 5 and you would be hard pressed to find quickly an easier way to steal $200. Few used car radios or even flatscreen TVs are worth that on the hot market.

    People who violently steal a cellphone should be put in jail the FIRST TIME for at least a year maybe mo

  • With the proper inexpensive tracking tools, police could track down cell phones that have been stolen. This would lead them to people who probably have committed more than one crime as well.
    • With the proper inexpensive tracking tools, police could track down cell phones that have been stolen. This would lead them to people who probably have committed more than one crime as well.

      With the proper inexpensive tracking tools police could track down .... well, anybody.

      Careful what you ask for.

      • by reub2000 (705806)

        It should be obvious to anyone with half a brain, but invasions of privacy don't happen because technology makes it easy but because of the corrupt people manning those tools.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        They can already do this. GSM providers in the USA elected to go with DtoA rather than GPS to provide positioning for E911. The result is that they all have the technology to locate your phone within a few meters any time it can see more than one cell site, whether it even has GPS or not. Plenty of phones have software loaded onto them which permits the carrier to switch GPS on and get your position, but that's not universal. I'd imagine that by now the CDMA carriers can do DtoA as well, but I have done abs

  • by carvalhao (774969) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @12:37PM (#43696141) Journal

    The ability to deny service to a blacklisted device already is part of the GSM standard and the central registry needed to get this working:

    http://www.gsma.com/technicalprojects/fraud-security/imei-database [gsma.com]

    Now it is only a matter of getting the carriers to actually use this list to deny service. In most SGSN, all it takes is changing a config flag.

    Yes, that hard!

  • Well, duh!

    It is a device that costs $200 upwards, small and a lot of people are carrying. The amount of cash one holds is usually meager and credit/debit cards are worthless because they can be rendered useless with one phone-call (someone pointed out above that it would be a good idea to have that bricking option for phones too). Expensive watches would be a good alternative for theft, but youngsters don't wear them, since they have a smartphone to tell the time with. The smartphone is the new Rolex.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      some smartphones are worth some cash even if blacklisted/banned.
      the screen etc are still usable from it.

  • What took them so long for this database anyways? sheesh. It's not so much a serious crime as it is a crime. Smartphones nowadays can be used to manage your life with all the information you can set into it. Of course, for some, it's a great delivery system for Angry Birds and Temple Run... nevertheless, there should have been a DB a long time ago.
  • Smartphones Driving Violent Crime Across US

    Are they? Are they really? Or is it just quicker, easier, and more productive for a mugger to demand your phone instead of your wallet these days?

    Or is there a whole generation of kids who would otherwise never have thought to turn to crime except that all those phones are soooo shiny...

  • ...to stick with my (antique?) flip phone.

    Besides, a big slab of glass and plastic looks much less cool than the flipper when you want to call "beam me up, Scotty."

    (Okay, granted, even the latter isn't cool anymore, but...)

  • I had this happen to me. Individual demanded my phone and threatened me with a knife if I didn't give it to him. He changed his mind when I drew my glock instead. He did have the presence of mind to run rather than try anything though.
  • The cell phone companies have the ability to disable service for any phone permanently. They already do this in most of Europe and has almost eliminated cell phone thefts. The American companies resist doing this common sense action because they can still make money from stolen phones.

  • All smart phones need to be sold with a fire arm to protect it from theft.

  • A number of smartphone providers have been talking about adding fingerprint readers to phones to make the security stronger. Over 40% of serious crime involves smart devices and half of those crimes are violent in some way, many at knife-point. Does anyone else worry that it won't take long for muggers to work out that if they take the phone they need to take your index finger too?

    • On the other hand, so to speak, if you give a thief your fingerprint to unlock your phone when he steels it, he will have its use until it locks again. But if you teach the thief to reset this security feature with his own fingerprint, then it will be recorded in the system memory. And if the phone were traceable, then you could teach him a lesson for the rest of his life.

      Note: I didn't intend to be sexist when writing this comment. On the off chance anyone feels left out, please feel free to switch the

    • by quenda (644621)

      if they take the phone they need to take your index finger too?

      Maybe you have been watching too much TV. The article is about the US, not Jamaica or the Congo.

  • Don't worry folks, the manufacturers have this in hand. By next year the accepted minimum screen size for a flagship phone will be 17", and cellphone thefts will be rendered impractical because by the time your poor thief has backed up his pick-up truck and got his accomplices to help him heave your phone into the back, the cops will have arrived...

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