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U.S. Law enforcement: iPhone theft isn't the only crime iOS 7 could help reduce

Joel Mathis | Sept. 30, 2013
The new Activation Lock feature in iOS 7 makes the phone very difficult to use or to wipe and resell if it gets stolen. Police and prosecutors hope that this technological development will lead to a reduction in smartphone thefts.

The department says that between May and mid-September of this year, officers recovered 99 iPhones and seven iPads using the program, and made 159 arrests along the way. (Of course, those numbers predate the release of iOS 7 and its new security features.)

Still, the rise of Apple-related robberies has been a source of concern.

"The theft of Apple phones and other hand-held devices drove the spike in robberies and larceny this year," Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said last year, when announcing the Operation ID program.

As to whether Activation Lock will make a difference, officials must wait and watch the crime stats.

"While I hope that Activation Lock will prove to be an effective deterrent to theft, it is too early to tell [whether] it will be a comprehensive solution," Schneiderman said in his statement.

To bolster that hope, officials can look to the precedent of car stereos. In the not-so-distant past, car-stereo theft was rampant in big cities, but more recently it has all but vanished from the scene. Why? Manufacturers began building components that became useless bricks if taken from their rightful owners. The new design served as a deterrent to theft, and law enforcement officials hope to accomplish the same result with the new iPhone campaign. They hope, too, that other companies follow. So far, San Francisco's Stillman said, only Samsung appears to be as enthusiastic as Apple about providing a solution.

"It's not just good consumer practice," she said. "It's a safety issue."


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