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Pa. officials join effort to thwart smartphone thefts

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Monday joined top prosecutors in San Francisco and New York in a nationwide initiative to thwart smartphone thefts by rendering the devices useless after a robbery.

The initiative called Secure Our Smartphones brought New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to Philadelphia to make the announcement with Nutter and Kane.

The group was begun in June by Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon with the hope of successfully pressuring the smartphone industry to develop a technological solution, such as a “kill switch” for stolen phones, that would make smartphones inoperable after they are stolen.

Nutter called smartphone theft an “epidemic” and Schneiderman and Gascon have called it a “crime wave.”

They say that such a safety switch would stop the robberies that are feeding a large and lucrative secondary market for stolen devices.

Lost and stolen cellphones cost consumers more than $30 billion last year, according to a study cited recently by Schneiderman. In New York, police have coined the term “Apple-picking” to describe thefts of smartphones and other mobile products, such as electronic tablets. The term was inspired by the popularity of Apple's iPhone.

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