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Crime Iphone Cellphones Apple

Fighting the iCrime Wave 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the there's-an-app-for-that dept.
theodp writes "'What's the point of a mobile device,' asks WSJ reporter and iPad-beatdown-victim Rolfe Winkler, 'if people don't feel safe using it while they're mobile?' A lucrative secondhand market for today's electronics devices — a used iPad or iPhone can fetch $400+ — has produced an explosion in 'Apple picking' by thieves. So, how big is the iCrime wave? In New York City alone, there were more than 26,000 incidents of electronics theft in the first 10 months of 2011 — 81% involving mobile phones — according to an internal NYPD document. And plenty of the crimes are violent. The best way to deter theft is to reduce the value of stolen device — the wireless industry is moving to adopt a national registry that would deny service to such devices. A remote kill switch has been discussed as another approach. For its part, Apple says the company 'has led the industry in helping customers protect their lost or stolen devices,' although some are unimpressed."
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Fighting the iCrime Wave

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  • by Shavano (2541114) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @01:55PM (#40802595)

    It's simple enough for carries to identify what a phone's IMEI is and not allow it on their network if it's reported lost or stolen. That would stop most cell phone theft.

    • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:18PM (#40802757) Journal

      What's obnoxious is that Apple will 'helpfully' hand over a replacement iPhone for all kinds of reasons, but without any verification as to whether you are the owner. So thief steals iPhone, goes to Apple store and complains about something on the iPhone not working right, is handed new iPhone with new IMEI.

      If you are cynical, you'd think Apple does this specifically so thieves will steal them, so you have to buy another iPhone.

      • If you are stupid, you'd think Apple does this specifically so thieves will steal them, so you have to buy another iPhone.

        FTFY. Why would Apple want to hand a free phone to thieves to make legitimate customers buy another one?

        • by pepty (1976012)

          Why would Apple want to make more money?

          FTFY.

        • Well, they just swap a used phone for a refurb, so it's a fairly low cost to Apple, and they want to keep their customers happy.

          If the 'customer' happens to be a thief, Apple isn't out a lot of money and they know the real customer is probably going to shell out full price for another iPhone [resulting in a LOT of profit for Apple].

        • FTFY. Why would Apple want to hand a free phone to thieves to make legitimate customers buy another one?

          To those who didn't quite understand what you said: If that happened, then Apple would have given out two phones (one to the thief, one to the customer) while getting only one payment. Not a good deal.

      • Wouldn't Apple know the IMEI of the phone that was given to the thief then????

    • by oPless (63249) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:20PM (#40802785) Journal

      Yes, but what are you going to to about wireless-only iPads/Tablets?

      IIRC GSM/3G phones in the UK and most of europe (assumption) all check against a list of stolen/insurance claimed devices - it won't register on the network, and 2nd hand phone traders/repairers/refurbishers will not touch them with the added bonus of passing your details onto the police.

      However outside this area there is no communication between registration bodies. Your stolen euro phones just go to the middle-east/asia/africa.

      In the states they're only just about getting their arses into gear. I doubt they'll data-share with their euro cousins either.

      • Yes, but what are you going to to about wireless-only iPads/Tablets?

        Generally they will not be used out-and-about as much as the devices you can use anywhere, so the risk is much lower.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        For Christ sakes an iPad is a tablet. Stop writing iPad/tablet because they are the same type of product.

      • Theives just grab your phone, and sell them on the streets a few days later, or to some retailer who sells "used phones". Having to move it into another country/continent is really hard for them, and would really de-motivate greatly.
        Sure, there could be some big boss on top that buys them from them and exports them, but that's more of organized crime than the common crook that grabs-and-runs. Organized crime is fought differently.

        Blocking the IMEI in the same country (and maybe in the EU, it could be in t

    • by drunken_boxer777 (985820) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:30PM (#40802845)

      When my wife lost her iPhone we called AT&T and asked if they could help us get it back. They told us that they "can't track a phone". Not that "we can't do that for legal reasons" or something similar. They claimed that they don't have the technological capability. I asked, "If I were the CIA or FBI and asked you to find this phone, would you still say that you don't have the capability?" "Correct. We can't do it." Please.

      The carriers don't care if someone loses a phone, or has one stolen. Whoever ends up with it could use it on their network, creating an additional customer. They care more about that than getting your mobile device back.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Buying cheaper phones would also reduce theft. My ISP virginMobile sells the 4S for $650..... no wonder the thieves want it (so they can resell it and make a pretty penny). But I doubt any would waste their time stealing the HTC One V which has all the same functions, but only cost $200. It's not worth the effort.

      And to address another gentleman:
      >>>>>Bought an i7-equipped PC for $650. An equal-speced MacMini costs almost double
      >>
      >>why is that worthy of putting in a sig? I mean

      • Buying cheaper phones would also reduce theft. My ISP virginMobile sells the 4S for $650..... no wonder the thieves want it (so they can resell it and make a pretty penny). But I doubt any would waste their time stealing the HTC One V which has all the same functions, but only cost $200. It's not worth the effort.

        Quite right, and, additionally, iPhones are easier to recognize, while it's hard to tell a $50 HTC phone from a $200 one. A theif won't be getting much from a $50 stolen one.

    • If some people stopped buying cheaper alternatives to original devices (in this case iphones and ipads), there wouldn't be a market for stolen mobile devices. Phones are not like cars which can be disintegrated and sold by parts, or at least, in a way that is highly profitable.

      Who doesn't know a guy that occasionally has those cheap almost new mobile phones for selling? Who didn't already find cheap almost new phones being sold in the streets? I'm sorry to tell you but most of those are probably stolen, so

  • I'm sure there are many apps out there that offer remote locking, GPS-tracking, and other features. I have Prey installed on my Nexus S, it can report GPS-location, access point names, network structure, etc, display messages, change the lock method, sound an alarm, maybe even wipe the phone, all with a single SMS or web interface setting.
    This is the only one I know (luckily, I never had to activate it, though), but a quick search of the Android market reveals 1000+ results for anti-theft, I'm sure the App Store has a similar number of hits.

    So there's no need for such a registry (although it wouldn't hurt either), people just need to prepare for the worst, and install such an app in time.

    I'm not exactly sure if the SMS-activation would work on an iPad, though. Are they capable of receiving SMS, or only 3/4G?

    • by jerquiaga (859470)
      Which is only good until they factory restore the OS, and then re-sell your device. If the IMEI is blocked, there is no resale market for stolen devices, therefore no point to stealing devices.
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:06PM (#40802679)

    Doing so is listed on the Dept. of Homeland Security's "suspicious potential terrorist" activities. If you see it, you're supposed to "say it" to the DHS.

  • Really Apple is the only major manufacturer who has provided me no-cost full disk encryption, location tracking, remote lock, and remote wipe capabilities out of the box for my phone, tablet, and laptop. Others have the option but it's purchased with a time limited service like LoJack or Computrace... and even then, the device support is limited.

    It's unfortunate that they don't take a hardline with thieves and serial numbers of devices reported stolen. You remove the ability for an iPhone to activate and th

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:16PM (#40802741) Homepage Journal

    This is a good example of "cost based" business versus "value based" business.

    The "cost based" carriers see a stolen phone as more income - the thief will use it to make calls on the owner's account, and the carrier will see this as more money. So long as stonewalling/ignoring is more lucrative than the effort it takes to fix the subscriber's problem, that's what the carrier will do.

    (cf Cramming [wikipedia.org], which is another "cost based" practice.)

    In a "value based" model, being able to disable a phone, or tell the owner where it is, or even working with law enforcement to recover lost phones would be a value and a benefit to the customer. Unfortunately, this would require work on the part of the carrier with no obvious gain in revenue.

    (One would also expect that having the location of stolen goods and probable cause to enter and look around would be of enormous social value, but for some reason police don't see it that way. Few police will bother to recover a stolen phone, even if they know where it is.)

    In times past the primary purpose of a business was "get and keep a customer". Nowadays it's "make money in any way possible".

    • In times past the primary purpose of a business was "get and keep a customer". Nowadays it's "make money in any way possible".

      It isn't about "the good old days" it is about monopoly and oligopoly. If ATT pisses off a customer and they leave for a "competitor," it is no big deal because there will be someone just as equally pissed off at Verizon or one of the other oligopolists who will come on over to ATT and take their place. Customers in that market only have the illusion of choice, all the players are roughly equal because that's the natural state of an oligopoly. For most customers, the only way to win is not to play the g

  • It's only stuff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:19PM (#40802771)

    Can't say I have sympathy for that twit who wrote that article who got the shit kicked out of him by these scumbags. He didn't HAVE to chase them, and obviously lacked common sense -- the average person challenges professional criminals at his peril. You never, ever know if the guy you're chasing is some crackhead who'll put a screwdriver through your temple.

    It's only stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Lives and limbs cannot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Living in a place where it's legal to carry, both open and concealed, a handgun, bringing a screwdriver to a gun fight is a bad move. Having had to draw a weapon, thankfully not having to use it, to defend myself and others, you'd be surprised what a deterrent it is. Most thieves, even the armed ones, are cowards.

      • Can't do that here. No handguns -- the law here is even more draconian than my native Australia (blame Dunblane)

        And London (whose crime rates are much worse than New York nowadays) would be infinitely more dangerous if both the cops and robbers all carried firearms (police are unarmed in Britain [1]). As it is, it takes a LOT more guts to kill somebody with a knife than a gun -- and I prefer it that way. Criminals as a group, as you say, are generally a gutless lot -- why make life easier for them?

        [1] When

        • Actually, the law in the UK is not at all Draconian. The Draconian law was a zero-tolerance law: all crimes were punishable by death. The law on gun ownership in the UK is simply strict and rightly so, because we have many immigrants from countries with gun cultures, ranging from the USA to Iraq and Somalia, and there is no reason why we should adapt our culture to suit them.

          London is a different matter. One argument is that, despite its large budget, or perhaps because of it, the Met has been out of contro

      • If it's legal to carry handguns, and they are as cheap as they are in the US, why wouldn't the thief have a gun too? I've never had explained to me how the American legal system distinguishes between law abiding citizens and criminals when it comes to gun ownership. Assuming I ever visited the US again (and I've stayed away since the craziness started in 2000), how do I know if the person walking around with a concealed handgun is a legitimate person or an armed criminal? And if I am confronted because I l
    • Re:It's only stuff (Score:5, Informative)

      by rtp (49744) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @04:34PM (#40803509) Homepage

      The most effective deterrent to high-stakes crime is when victims are their own defense. More people should carry handguns, and the laws should be relatively straightforward for any lawful adult to own and concealed-carry a handgun. Muggings for pocket cash, phones, sneakers and logo jackets occur because the risk to thugs is near zero in cities where the government makes it difficult for law-abiding citizens to carry.

      This logic - let the thugs take your stuff, "it's only stuff", is a prey mentality. We aren't sheep. nor ants. People must stick up for themselves, defend each other, and protect that which you worked hard to obtain. Simply letting the bullies take your stuff is a slippery slope to freezing in the cold while the grasshoppers party in your house through the winter. Have some self-respect, and draw the line. Don't let yourself be kicked around. Don't stomp on others, but definitely kick back hard if somebody stomps on you.

      The government continues to want us to believe that "they" (the government) will protect us. The truth is, the police are more of a clean-up crew than a protective force.

      Kill switches on iPads and iPhones may appear to negate the value of the device (while the muggings won't stop, they'll still jack you up for a wallet, watch, or Nike sneakers), but it opens the door to abuse where a cyber attack on the control system could render our legitimate mobile devices useless. Rather than try and reduce the value of our property, let's protect ourselves properly and reduce the overall operating risk of living in cities.

      Crime can't be reduced to zero, but the "professional criminal" who has opted to pursue a living in crime (because the risk-reward ratio shows that crime does pay better than a minimum-wage job, especially in cities where victims aren't allowed to defend themselves with guns) will likely reconsider their career choice when the risk-reward ratio includes risking their own death or a murder charge in trade for a few hundred dollars. When it's simply "not worth it", most criminals move on to a different pursuit for sustenance. The sociopaths and mentally warped human monsters that prey upon us are statistically rare, but the common street thug who is stealing an iPad will become less common if you raise the difficulty above that of a legitimate job. These people often follow the path of least resistance. If we're making it too easy to be a criminal, you can't expect anything different than increased crime. If you make it much more dangerous to be a criminal, there will be less criminals.

      • How, then, does the US system prevent the "professional criminal" from gaining access to guns? Currently, you can't even stop someone with severe mental health issues from entering a movee theater carrying guns and then carrying out a massacre. Who is likely to come off worse - the professional criminal who carries a gun and is practised in threatening people with it, or the ordinary citizen fumbling in his or her coat pocket?

        As someone remarked only the other day, the difference between "Atlas shrugged" an

      • I come from essentially a no-gun area, so of course I have cultural bias, but to me there is a moral element that is really hard to understand.

        I carry a phone worth some 400$. Other than that, I carry little that is valuable. I sometimes carry a netbook but overall I can't think of myself carrying items worth more than some 800$ total. Now, if there's a mugging attempt and I draw a handgun that I carry, that means all bets are off. The thug either backs off and runs or I have to be ready to shoot. Even havi

    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      I read a paperback or a newspaper on the subway. No one ever tried to steal those.
  • I was just wondering about this today -- if my Android phone got stolen, what do I do? Call up, ummm, Android and have them tell the police the exact phone coordinates and the police waltz over and get it, presumably using a tracking app on their own Android devices?

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:30PM (#40802851)

    For nearly a decade, my neighborhood has seen people getting mugged for their iPhones almost nightly.

    Basically: there's a public housing complex 2-3 stops up the line. Our neighborhood has a lot of affluent 20-30 year old professionals, grad students, etc.

    Guess what? People who think the world Owes Them like an easy commute just as much as you do. They jump off the subway, walk up and down the street until they find someone, mug them, and run off - usually back onto the subway, or get picked up by a buddy a block or two over. In the time it takes to even find someone to call 911 for you, they could have walked several blocks and are effectively gone.

    Apple is unique in that their devices are managed heavily by iTunes and their online systems. A blacklist could be implemented within months - Apple has plenty of inhouse resources to make it happen. They'd rather sell you a new phone - every theft is a new sale.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For nearly a decade, my neighborhood has seen people getting mugged for their iPhones almost nightly.

      iPhone was launched in 2007. Its 2012. How long has your neighborhood seen this now?

    • They'd rather sell you a new phone - every theft is a new sale.

      If that were so why would Apple make "Find my iPhone" (or iPad) for all devices? They were among the first to do so.

      Obviously Apple wants happy customers more than anything.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Apple is unique in that their devices are managed heavily by iTunes and their online systems. A blacklist could be implemented within months - Apple has plenty of inhouse resources to make it happen. They'd rather sell you a new phone - every theft is a new sale.

      Precisely the same argument applies to the cellular providers. They have plenty of inhouse resources to make it happen, but they'd rather sell you a phone, as every theft is a new sale. If you have insurance, you (and others like you) have already paid for your new phone, and the insurance premiums for everyone will be increased if that begins to become unprofitable.

  • During the London riots last year (known amongst the police here as the "retail riots", for obvious reasons), the two safest places to be in London was either a Muslim area (because the rioters didn't want to pick on anybody who would fight back) -- and bookstores.

    It's obvious. The criminals saw a collapse in law and order, and got the stuff they wanted -- sportswear, consumer electronics, anything desirable by the underclasses, and/or fenceable.

    The funny thing is, Foot Locker and friends actually loved it.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:48PM (#40802957) Homepage

    In New York City alone, there were more than 26,000 incidents of electronics theft in the first 10 months of 2011

    OHMYGODPANIC26,000ISABIGNUMBER!

    Call it 30,000 per year at $200 per device average residual value. That's $6m per year. In a city of ten million, that's $0.60 per citizen, per year. The least expensive method of mitigating this problem may be to do no more than we are already doing. At $0.60 per year per person, do we really need to expend more resources on theft enforcement? Maybe we're doing well enough already.

    Let's say you place some intangible value on the devices for the "sense of loss and invasion" that comes from stuff being stolen. Give it an outlandish price; call it $1000 total value per device. That's still only $3.00 per year per person.

    People always talk about bloated government -- in the end, the only solution to bloated government is not asking for more government. Government is an important and necessary, but blunt weapon. At some level of enforcement you reach decreasing returns on a problem has been sufficiently solved. Enforcement is expensive; at some point, enough is enough.

    • in the end, the only solution to bloated government is not asking for more government.

      The article doesn't ask for more government. It asks for better technology and better corporate policies to deter theft.

      • by retchdog (1319261)

        you've forgotten the unspoken second rule of american libertarianism: for anyone other than the Heroic Job Creators, anything other than passive consumption is tantamount to coercion.

  • Bullshit statistic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @02:51PM (#40802991)

    So, how big is the iCrime wave? In New York City alone, there were more than 26,000 incidents of electronics theft in the first 10 months of 2011 — 81% involving mobile phones — according to an internal NYPD document.

    So only ~20k thefts "involving a phone". How many involved an iPhone? How many of those were actually targeting the iPhone and not just a targeting a random person who happened to be carrying one?

    The number of robberies in NYC has been declining steadily since the early nineties. Where the city used to experience 100k robberies a year, they're now down to around 20k. In short, there is no "iCrime Wave". Just the same robberies that have always been happening, only now victims happen to carry more valuables.

  • I understand that they are talking about networking and not the phone part. however:
    First they should start blocking phones by IMEI when they are registered stolen. Only then will I believe they are interested what else they might be willing to do.

    I am sure they will think of rooted devices as 'stolen' and block them. I am sure they they will think of other ways to block your device. e.g. when your contract is up, so you are forced to buy a new one. I am sure that if you resell it, it will be 'stolen' as we

    • I assume how this will work is: You call up a number (your carrier, a consortium or whatever). You tell them your phone's phone number, and they look up the IMEI associated to that number, and block it.

      So tell me: What prevents your neighbor (or whoever) from calling and saying "Officer, officer, my phone was stolen, the number is 555-1234." ?

  • I'm sorry but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilsaloving (1534307) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @03:05PM (#40803077)

    A company I worked for a few years back (before the bastards laid off the entire *building*) had a contract to provide tech support to apple. At that time, there was absolutely no policies for handling items declared stolen. Unless things have changed since then, I call shenanigans.

    Granted, they do now have that "Find my idevice" service, but thats a self serve feature that only works for the most recent generation of devices. You could just as easily use Prey, which works on all devices. IMO, they haven't done nearly enough to justify claiming they 'led the industry'.

  • I remember the same hoo-hah bullshit about theft of products off the streets during the late-80s and early-90s for Reebok and Nike shoes, and then later in the 90s of Allstar team jackets. There was the occasional murder. I'm sure it happened, but probably not to the same degree as this.

    I think a lot of it is marketing - corporations taking advantage of crime to push their products' popularity. "They're such a valuable rarity that people have to steal them off the streets to be able to get them, they want t

    • What I'm curious about is why you never hear about people being robbed on the streets of their guns, or of armed people being robbed.

      I see what you're trying to say there. Most who carry don't have a Wild West-style quick draw holster... so even if you carry a gun and are surprised by a robber at gun point, your gun isn't that much use if the 3 seconds it takes you to pull your weapon, flip the safety, and chamber a round is coincidentally the same time it takes for you to be shot dead 6 times. Contrary to the belief of those that carry, the chances of ever being able to use a gun successfully to defend against a crime is exceptionally r

      • Statistically, it's on the order of ten times more likely your gun will accidentally hurt or kill you or a loved one than ever getting the opportunity to be used to defend against crime, let alone successfully.

        The problem with that statistic is that we have no idea how often a gun is successfully used to defend against crime because a large number of the case never get reported (how large we have no way of knowing, since no one reports them). What is known is that criminals often choose not to commit crimes when they know that their target is armed with a gun. Most of the time when a gun is used to defend against crime it is not discharged

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          Most of the time when a gun is used to defend against crime it is not discharged

          Or reported. Half of the US populace owns a gun - do the math. By population, most Americans now live in cities or states (NY, NJ, CA, IL) where firearm ownership is all but illegal unless you're highly connected and have a lot of money. Many guns pass under the radar as previous generations die - grandads guns get redistributed to the grandkids or children.

          If it's illegal to own a gun, you're not going to call the cops when you scare someone out of your house with a gun. There's no fucking way you can expl

      • Gosh, don't tell the libertarians and gun nuts that the only proven way to fight crime is by properly funding law enforcement, and giving them the right tools to find the bad guys and crack their heads together. God no...

        The mere suggestion that their puerile, simplistic view of the world is complete fantasy would be too much of a head-fuck for them.

        • by russotto (537200)

          You want to fight crime by giving money to the NYPD and allowing them to be thuggish, and you think other people are puerile and simplistic?

          • by CAIMLAS (41445)

            By all means, stop funding the NYPD. But make it legal for people to defend themselves at the same time (which it currently is not, in NYC or the greater NYS).

            If you didn't have the spectre of "protecting" the people hanging over your head, there isn't a justification for a large police force. Even with the huge influx of illegal aliens and drugs, cities like Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Pheonix have a distinctly lower crime rate and smaller police force than somewhere like LA or NYC - because the criminals

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        Statistically, it's on the order of ten times more likely your gun will accidentally hurt or kill you or a loved one than ever getting the opportunity to be used to defend against crime, let alone successfully.

        Your statistics are, at best, specious.

        There are between 800k and 2.5M defensive uses of firearms in the US every year (depending on how you collect the statistics).

        Meanwhile, there are a scant 10-20k gun deaths in the US, after discounting suicides. Personally, having seen what a hung body looks like, I'd rather have a family member shoot themselves than hang or cut themselves. It's much more humane and more effective than OTC pill overdosing. (If someone wants to go, they're going to go.)

    • by antdude (79039)

      Or something old and/or rare like a Palm Treo/Pre. :)

    • Even better, I own an LG Optimus 2x, 2x more crashes, 2x more frustration, 2x longer to get updates. Although it would suck to get my phone stolen, it wouldn't be that much of a loss.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They aren't being paid to protect your assets, they are being paid to provide you with a product. If you have a problem with crime in your area, I suggest you take it up with your local law enforcement.

  • by Lisias (447563) on Saturday July 28, 2012 @08:58PM (#40804783) Homepage Journal

    They ported this game [youtube.com] to iPhone? X-)

  • Add 3 things to iDevices.... Mandatory Insurance, iCloud, and the ability to passively record video and audio upon owner's say so with police getting mirrored data-stream.

    The insurance replaces the stolen device, no reason for the owner to resist and get hurt. Cloud Backup get's all your data, content, media. Its also is the place that get's the passive audio and video of the perpetrator screwing with you and your iPad or iPhone. All the while the iPad is clearing your data from the pad, and removing applic

  • They refuse to blacklist devices and let you disable them. they have the ability to make an ipad or ipod become useless and show on the screen" STOLEN PROPERTY" and nothing else the first time it is connected to itunes to restore it to reset the password lock. iphones could be over the air blacklisted and set to "I am stolen mode"

    They choose not to because they prefer to allow a black market of stolen property to exist.

  • If Apple trades another phone for a stolen one that someone brings in, isn't it now in possession of stolen property and couldn't the owner demand it back?

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