Do you have a smartphone? If so, you may want to keep a close eye on it, according to a new report, which shows that smartphone thefts are on the rise around the nation.
San Francisco police report that nearly half of all robberies in the area this year involve cell phones, most of which occur on their busy transit lines, reports Fox News.
Thieves are also becoming more brazen. One robber snatched a smartphone from the seat behind his victim, darting out the rear of the bus in seconds. Another theft occurred when a robber snatched an iPhone from an unsuspecting bus rider — while she was still talking on it.
Consumers are even reporting being held up at gunpoint while thieves search for their mobile devices. These incidents are part of a massive crime wave striking the country. On the east coast, New York City Police report that more than 40 percent of robberies in the city involve cell phones, notes The Seattle Times.
Long-time San Francisco Police Captain Joe Garrity began noticing the rise in smartphone thefts about two years ago. Garrity stated:
“This is your modern-day purse snatching. A lot of younger folks seem to put their entire lives on these things that don’t come cheap.”
Thefts of cell phones, especially of more expensive smartphones, are costing consumers and insurance companies millions of dollars. They are also sending law enforcement agencies back to the drawing board, trying to come up with solutions to the growing problem.
Police in San Francisco have gone undercover and also launched a transit ad campaign, warning riders to “be smart with your smartphone.” But these city-wide campaigns aren’t enough for St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, who believes, “It will take a national solution to make this problem go away.”
In answer to the growing number of cell phone thefts, US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), along with New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, announced that the major US cell phone network carriers and the Federal Communications Commission are setting up a national database to track reported stolen phones.
The network is scheduled to launch next year. Schumer has also introduced a bill into Congress called the Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act. The Act proposes a five-year prison sentence for a person who tampers with the ID numbers of a stolen cell phone.
US Carriers have previously put phones on a lost or stolen list, but networks with SIM cards are limited to blocking the SIM number, instead of the phone itself. The individual carriers are expected to launch their own databases this month, which will help them permanently disable any cell phone that has been reported stolen.