California lawmaker wants to require 'kill switch' on cell phones to deter thefts

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MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 04: A Blackberry cell phone is seen at Fixx wireless on November 4, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Blackberry announced today it has abandoned plans to sell the company and that CEO Thorsten Heins will be leaving the company and step down from the board. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced Thursday he plans to file a bill that would require all smartphones and tablets sold in California to come with pre-equipped theft-deterring the technology solutions to render a device useless if stolen.

SB 962 will be heard in Senate policy committees later this spring.

RELATED: Thieves snatch smartphones from people's hands on public transit

“Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cell phone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses,” Leno said in a news release.

In 2011, cellphones were reportedly taken in 12 percent of robberies, thefts and burglaries in the City of Los Angeles,  according to the Los Angeles Police Department. They are the second most commonly stolen item after money.

Cell phone theft can be even more common on college campuses, where students often feel like they're in a utopia, said Cal-State Long Beach police Captain Christopher Schivley.

Schively said though the police department hasn’t handled a case where a cell phone was snatched out of someone’s hand, officers definitely deal with stolen cell phones that are unattended.

He said a “kill switch” law could be helpful - but there are already technology security apps like Apple’s "find my phone,” that can help people and the police recover stolen cell phones.

Another solution is to write down the cell phone or device’s serial number, so that if it’s ever stolen, police can add it to a nationwide database of stolen electronic devices.

“Let’s say someone in another city arrests someone and they have ten cell phones,” said UCLA officer Eric Rakowski. “This is one way you can get that product back to you.”

Last month, a 26-year old man was arrested in Koreatown for stealing several cell phones from UCLA students.

One of the best ways to avoid a cell phone snatcher is not to hold it in your hand in the first place. That’s sometimes impossible and simply hard to resist.

 LAPD offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of cellphone theft:

  • Remove all cellphones and electronic items from cars when you exit and lock the car.
  • Keep cellphones in pockets, purses or carriers, rather than setting them down on tables.
  • Don’t text and walk or walk and talk.  Your attention is away from your surroundings and it makes you an easy mark for a thief.
  • Don’t lend your phone for use unless you really know the person and trust they will hand it back.
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