Would 'kill switch' on phones deter cell phone robbers?

Sandra Bookman reports from Columbus Circle.
March 3, 2014 2:56:00 PM PST
It's a sobering thought: that those smartphones many of us feel we could not live without may very well be jeopardizing our safety.

Consumer Reports says more than a million and a half Americans were victimized by smartphone thieves in 2012.

"This is so common, the crime has its own name - they call it 'apple picking'," says New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman is part of the "Secure our Smartphones" initiative, a coalition of leaders putting pressure on mobile device manufacturers and carriers to come up with technology to prevent the thefts. New legislation announced Monday would mandate a so-called "kill switch" on ever smartphones.

"What the kill switch will do is render the phone inoperable," says Representative Jose Serrano, "the phone will not be able to be started anywhere else."

The SOS initiative has been meeting with the cell phone companies about proposed fixes, but says the industry has been slow to make changes. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton says the hold-up is corporate greed.

"They are making a fortune on this, they don't want to lose it. Shame on them," says Bratton.

Also discouraged by the slow process, and on-hand for Monday's announcement was the family of Megan Boken, a college student who was shot to death 18 months ago in St. Louis for her cellphone.

"I am frustrated ? it should be moving faster, and I'm sad to see that we have to introduce legislation, but I think it is important," said Megan's father, Paul Boken.

Congressman Serrano introduced the measure in the House, however a similar measure has already been introduced in Senate.