How to stop cell phone theft now

Cell phone theft is rampant constituting over 35% of all crimes nationwide. In San Francisco it is as high as 75% of all crimes. Approximately 1.6 million cell phones were stolen in 2012, which doubled to 3.1 million in 2013.

Cell phone theft is not always a nonviolent crime where you’re asked to hand over your cell phone, wallet, and watch while the thief runs away. Many times these crimes are violent involving murder, mugging and the pistol-whipping of the victim as a senseless act of brutality. I know from a family member since my son was recently mugged, pistol whipped and beaten to a pulp even though he voluntarily handed over his cell phone and wallet.

In 2013, the City of St. Louis was inflamed by the murder of Megan Boken, a 22-year-old St. Louis University volleyball player who was killed in broad daylight for her cell phone. The City of St. Louis reacted to the senseless murder of Megan Boken by adopting an ordinance in January 2013 that closely regulated the sale of cell phones along with other items like metals, coins, and jewelry.

The city of St. Louis enacted  one of the first local ordinances addressing this issue. While the adoption of the ordinance by St. Louis may lessen the trafficking of cell phones in the City it does not in any way alter the ability of criminals to market cell phone in adjoining communities, nor does it prevent trafficking in other states or countries. Local ordinances are a way to make a statement as part of a grass-roots movement to force state and federal legislators to enact more comprehensive legislation.

Why is cell phone theft so rampant? The reality is that cell phones can easily be converted into cash because there is a non-traceable marketplace for the sale of cell phones in the United States and overseas ranging from $200 in the U. S. to $2,000 overseas, where the sale price of a cell phone is not subsidized by the carrier through a long-term contract.

Is there a solution? Yes there is, but it involves requiring the manufacturers to install kill buttons on cell phones that allow the owner of the cell phone to disable the cell phone and wipe all information off of the cell phone. The kill button must work so that the phone cannot be reactivated except by the owner of the cell phone.

The manufacturers and the retailers regrettably have resisted these common sense suggestions. After all the more cell phones that are stolen the greater the profits of the manufacturers and retailers, which are tied to the total sales of cell phones. Wouldn’t it be nice if the industry had a heart and would have taken charge of this problem by making the changes without being pressured by the public? Still, the result is inevitable. The public will get what is needed, a kill button for cell phones.

This is already happening as key states begin to adopt legislation requiring kill buttons with California and Minnesota taking the lead. Once a few major states require cell phones sold in their state the industry to have a kill button the industry will buckle to public demand and moral outrage for a solution to a major problem that affects life, safety and the health of their customers.

Howard Wright © 2014

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