Home Kill Switches Are Killing Off iPhone Thefts

Kill Switches Are Killing Off iPhone Thefts

Looks like the theory that smartphone kill switches discourage theft may be graduating to fact.

Three cities—London, New York and San Francisco—all saw fewer iPhones reported stolen since Apple began putting kill switches into its smartphones, Reuters reports. The drop in crime wasn’t just a subtle downward slope either. Think of it more like the fall off a cliff.

Apple launched the iPhone feature a year and a half ago, and since then, New York City authorities noted a 25 percent decline in iPhone thefts. San Francisco weighed in with a 40% decrease, while in London, thefts dropped by half. All thanks to the software that effectively “bricks” phones by disabling them.

Officials in the three cities issued a joint statement announcing the results.

See also: A Thief Snatched My iPhone—And I Learned A Lot About Smartphone Crime

The news must be very gratifying for London Mayor Boris Johnson, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, all of whom argued for laws to make kill switches mandatory.

Few U.S. jurisdictions have kill switch laws outside of Minnesota and California. The latter just passed one of the strongest last year, though it hasn’t yet gone into effect. Apple, as the maker of one of the most stolen smartphones, voluntarily added the switch—dubbed Activation Lock—in August 2013. Last year, the feature remained a fundamental part of the company’s new and very popular iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phablet.

Samsung and Google have also implemented kill switch features, and Microsoft will add them into its upcoming Windows phones. In general, the mobile industry seems open to the broad idea of kill switches, but would rather make them opt-in, rather than turned on by default. That led smartphone makers, carriers and the mobile trade group CTIA to argue against the California law, which will mandate default activation. 

See also: Smartphone “Kill Switch” Now Mandatory In California

According to William Duckworth, an associate professor of data science and analytics at Creighton University, American consumers spend $580 million per year (PDF link) on replacements for stolen phones. A National Consumers League statistic from 2012 revealed that 1.6 million people in the U.S. had a handheld device stolen from them. 

Lead photo by Jonas

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