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INITIATIVE: Cybercrime Prevention
Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.)
Following a troubling rise in smartphone theft in New York City and nationwide, resulting in 1.6 million Americans being victimized in 2012 alone, the Crime Commission became a founding member of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, a coalition organized by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón to urge the smartphone industry to protect the safety of consumers. As a founding member, the Crime Commission participated in joint meetings with the Attorney General and District Attorney, recruited NYPD Commissioner Bratton to the cause, and conceived the group's legislative strategy.
Progress was quick. Within a few months of the June 2013 S.O.S. launch, Apple introduced its "Activation Lock" in response to pressure from the coalition and others. In June 2014, we again joined AG Schneiderman and DA Gascón to announce that Google and Microsoft would install a kill switch in their new mobile operating systems. Within one year, the three dominant smartphone operating systems — Google's Android, Apple's iOS, and Microsoft's Windows Phone — that currently encompass 97% of smartphones in the United States, each implemented or planned to implement a kill switch.
Less than one year after the Crime Commission helped launch the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, more than 100 elected representatives and officials around the country and abroad signed on to the coalition. In March 2014, the Crime Commission joined AG Schneiderman and U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano to unveil a bill mandating each new phone include a "kill switch", which would allow victims of smartphone theft to remotely disable their phones—making them useless to thieves, and pointless to steal.
The introduction of the kill switch has had a dramatic impact on smartphone robberies both in the U.S. and the U.K. From January 2013 to December 2014, the NYPD recorded a 16% overall drop in cell phone robberies, including a 25% drop in iPhone robberies—the first phone to adopt a kill switch. During that same time period, San Francisco recorded a 27% overall drop in cell phone robberies, and a 40% decrease in iPhone robberies. London has recorded a similar decline in smartphone crime. Comparing the 12 months prior to October 2013 with the 12 months prior to October 2014, smartphone thefts from persons dropped 40% and personal robberies of smartphones (crimes involving violence or the threat of violence) declined 38% in the year after kill switches were introduced. In London, the monthly average for the number of phones stolen has halved since September 2013 — resulting in 20,000 fewer victims annually. [NYAG]
In August 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law requiring all smartphones sold in the Golden State after July 1, 2015 to include this technology on an opt-out basis. The industry has said that they will not be rolling out a California specific phone. They have indicated that all smartphones sold in the United States will meet the requirements established by the California law. [NYAG]
Through the S.O.S. initiative advocates, lawmakers, and law enforcement representatives were able to develop a strategy for manufacturers and carriers to implement to deter crime, eliminate the secondhand market for stolen mobile devices and prevent further victimization.
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