A.G. asks smartphone companies to help stop ‘Apple picking’

iphone theft

Smartphone makers should help stem the tide of iPhones being swiped in the state, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said today.

Schneiderman sent letters to the heads of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung asking them to help prevent theft and questioning why phones aren’t better protected from being resold on the black market.

He cited a rise in violent street crimes including phone thefts, often called “Apple picking.”

“I would like to know what Apple is doing to combat this growing public safety problem,” Schneiderman wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

He asked why “companies that can develop sophisticated handheld electronics, such as the products manufactured by Apple, cannot also create technology to render stolen devices inoperable and thereby eliminate the expanding black market.”

The NYPD has reported that smartphone thefts are increasingly on the rise in the city, even as other crime declines.

Thieves often swipe them from their owners’ hands – the subway is a frequent setting, just before doors close or on a platform – then wipe the devices and resell them for hundreds in cash.

According to Schneiderman’s office, between January and September of last year, 11,447 smartphones were reported swiped, an increase of 3,280 from the year before.

And too many of these robberies are violent, Schneiderman said.

This month, a woman was mugged at gunpoint in Crown Heights for her Android phone. In February, three people were stabbed on a Queens subway platform in a fight over the phone, and last April, a 26-year-old Museum of Modern Art chef was killed for his phone in the Bronx.

Schneiderman asked the companies to give information about what they tell consumers regarding safety. He also requested whether they financially benefit when customers have to shell out cash to replace stolen phones.

“Cracking down on violent and dangerous cell phone thefts is important for New Yorkers,” Schneiderman said. “The companies that dominate this industry have a responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security.”


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