London Mayor Joins “Secure Our Smartphones” Initiative

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
CONTACT: Stephanie Ong Stillman, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1167
ADA Alex Bastian, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1931

Global Coalition Of Elected Officials And Law Enforcement Agencies Presses Industry To Protect The Safety Of Consumers

Schneiderman, Gascón & Johnson: The Spike In Violent, Often Deadly Thefts Of Smartphones Is A Global Problem That Demands A Global Solution

San Francisco-- New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón today announced that London Mayor Boris Johnson has joined the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative as an international partner and co-chair. Launched earlier this year, the S.O.S. Initiative is a groundbreaking coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, attorneys general, state and city comptrollers, and public safety activists working to encourage the smartphone industry to implement meaningful solutions that will end the international theft epidemic of mobile communications devices such as smartphones and tablets. The frequency of such incidents is staggering, with an increasing number having turned violent. In July, London Mayor Johnson wrote to the domestic CEO’s of major manufacturers urging them to do more to tackle this problem, and he will convene a meeting with them in September.

“The epidemic of violent street crime involving the theft of mobile devices is a global problem that demands a global solution,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Too often, smartphones stolen in New York, San Francisco or London are repackaged and sold on lucrative secondary markets around the world. By teaming up with international partners like Mayor Johnson, we are sending the huge international corporations that dominate the smartphone industry a very powerful message demanding that they be good corporate citizens and take responsible steps to ensure the safety of our consumers.”

"This is an international epidemic that is not unique to any one municipality, nation or continent," said District Attorney George Gascón. "People are being victimized around the world for devices developed by transnational corporations. An effective strategy that combats the global market for stolen smartphones requires leadership from our partners abroad. Mayor Johnson's commitment to seeing this epidemic through to its terminus is a tremendous benefit to the hundreds of millions who own smartphones across the globe."

“Residents and visitors to our city need better protection from the menace of smartphone theft,” said Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. “Cities like London, New York and San Francisco all face the same challenge, and that is why London is joining the Secure Our Smartphones campaign to help find a global solution. We need the industry to take this issue seriously and come up with a technical solution that can squash the illegal smartphone market that is fuelling this crime.”

Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities across the United States and the United Kingdom, the theft of smartphones has spiked dramatically. In the United States, one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device. Consumer Reports estimates that 1.6 million Americans were victimized by smartphone thieves in 2012.

Last year, 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco targeted such a device. In New York City, the number was 20 percent, a 40 percent increase from the year before. Just last week, a half a dozen teenagers beat a 36-year-old New York City man for his iPhone. In London, although crime overall is falling, offenses such as pickpocketing and bag snatches have risen by more than 15 percent this year. This is mainly driven by the theft of phones, with some 10,000 handsets stolen in the city every month.

Street-level thieves feed a massive global marketplace for stolen phones that is too large or lucrative for any single community to stop. Mobile devices that are reported stolen in the United States and no longer able to access domestic cell networks can be reactivated to work in foreign countries. In Hong Kong, for example, iPhones are worth upward of $2,000 apiece.

The Secure Our Smartphone Initiative is working to encourage the industry to find technological solutions that will remove the economic value of stolen smartphones, thereby drying up secondary markets and ending the national epidemic of violent street crimes commonly known as “apple picking.”

For more information on efforts by District Attorney Gascón, Attorney General Schneiderman and London Mayor Boris Johnson to combat “apple picking,” visit the San Francisco District Attorney’s website, the New York State Attorney General’s website or the London Mayor's website.