Anniversary of Landmark Legislation Coincides With Continuing Decline in Violent Smartphone Robberies

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News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón



July 27, 2017

Twitter: @GeorgeGascon

CONTACT:     ALEX BASTIAN (415) 553-1931         |        MAX SZABO (415) 553-9089



San Francisco Police Department data reveals smartphone robberies declined an additional 22% from 2015 to 2016


SAN FRANCISCO – Today, District Attorney George Gascón announced that the violent epidemic of smartphone robberies that plagued San Francisco has declined by 50 percent from its peak in 2013 through the end of 2016.  Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 962, the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, into law almost three years ago.  The legislation, which was sponsored by District Attorney George Gascón and authored by Senator Mark Leno, requires all smartphones sold in California to come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technological solutions which can render stolen devices useless.  The first-of-its-kind legislation requires manufacturers to deploy the solutions in an opt-out manner, ensuring the vast majority of consumers have the technology enabled.

“The prevalence of these crimes made it evident early on that enforcement and prosecution were not sufficient tools to reduce the violence on our streets,” said District Attorney George Gascón.  “Because of this hard-fought legislation, stealing a smartphone is no longer worth the trouble, and that means the devices we use every day no longer make us targets for violent crime.”

"Our partnership with DA Gascón and the SFPD and the success of our bipartisan legislative effort continues to pay dividends - less crime and safer communities.  Solutions can be found," said Senator Mark Leno.

On July 1, 2015 the law went into effect.  Just two years later San Franciscans and smartphone users around the world are continuing to benefit from a novel approach to an epidemic of violence.  SFPD data released today indicates that robberies involving smartphones declined 22 percent from 2015 to 2016.  In fact, from its peak in 2013, overall robberies involving smartphones have declined an astonishing 50 percent. 

According to Consumer Reports, the number of victims of smartphone theft in the United States nearly doubled from 1.6 million to 3.1 million between 2012 and 2013, a 94 percent increase in a single year. An astounding 1.6 million phones were reported stolen in Colombia in just 2012, despite the country having a population 1/7th the size of the U.S. In London, 10,000 phones were stolen in just one month of 2013. In fact, the black market trade was so lucrative some drug cartels were trafficking stolen smartphones out of the United States.  In San Francisco in 2014, 67 percent of all robberies involved the theft of a mobile communications device. In Oakland the number was as high as 75 percent of all robberies.  

Additionally, with reports indicating that U.S. consumers spent an estimated $30 billion on lost and stolen devices annually, the implementation of this technology has saved consumers significant resources every year.   Following passage of SB 962, DA Gascón worked with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Technological Advisory Committee to develop a portal that enables law enforcement to check - and hopefully return - found mobile devices to their rightful owner.  Consumers can also use the portal to identify if a phone has been reported stolen to a wireless carrier.  The portal can be found at:   

SB 962 had unanimous law enforcement support from groups across the state, and from many groups around the world.  DA Gascón co-chaired the international Secure Our Smartphones Coalition (S.O.S.), along with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Special thanks go to the SFPD’s Crime Analysis Unit for their assistance in providing this data. 

Cell Phone Robbery Data

Cell Phone Robbery 2015

Cell Phone Robber 2016

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