They call it “iCrime” because a recent and alarming surge in smartphone and tablet theft — particularly involving products from Apple — have made walking around with one of these devices an increasingly high-risk activity.
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece this week where reporter Rolfe Winkler suffered a broken jaw after he confronted muggers who stole his girlfriend’s iPad on a subway. In Denver, a man’s pinkie was torn off when thieves ripped an Apple bag from his hands as he was exiting the store with a new iPad. In another article from Business Insider, its reporter Boonsri Disckinon was punched in the face in the upscale San Francisco neighborhood of Russian Hill, knocked unconscious, only to later awaken on the curb sans her iPhone.
The reason why these thefts are on the rise is fairly simple – they have high resale value and are incredibly easy to fence. A stolen iPhone can command $400 and up – something other devices can’t. A phone can also be snatched from a texting user’s hands, and cities are filled with shops that will buy “used” smartphones, wipe them clean, and get them back into circulation in a matter of hours. Many are shipped overseas, where smartphones in new markets like Brazil price sell for as much as $1,000. Even the iPhone’s location software can be easily disabled and wiped out long before any tracking can occur.
The stats are pretty scary. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told CNN that “40 percent of the items stolen in New York City are Apple gadgets.” Business Insider says, “Up to 80 percent of the street crimes in San Francisco are robberies of phones, laptops, and tablets, according to an assistant District Attorney and several San Francisco cops who routinely work on iPhone theft cases.” In Washington, D.C., “Cellphone-related robberies jumped 54 percent from 2007 to 2011,” according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
First, keep an eye on your surroundings. Loud music in your headphones and the distraction of texting or other apps make you a prime target. Even talking on a phone has prompted thieves to jump out from cars, surround the talker (usually a woman), grab the phone and drive away. Most cities suggest you hide your devices, camouflage them or limit their use entirely.
Of course, the biggest irony — or tragedy — is that mobile devices are meant to be used while mobile. Enjoying your favorite playlist while walking around the city is invigorating, or just sending a quick text from the bus is the whole point of mobile communications. But please be careful, and think twice.
Have you had a gadget stolen, or know of a recent incident? Tell me about it below.
- Fighting the iCrime Wave [Wall Street Journal]
- A Guy Punched Me In the Face and Took My iPhone – And It Happens All the Time [Business Insider]
- 40% Of The Things Stolen in New York City Are Apple Gadgets [Business Insider]