You probably wouldn't attempt walking down the street waving a handful of hundred-dollar bills around, yet when you think about it, that's exactly what every person does who owns a smartphone. Off contract, many smartphones cost upwards of $500, and that makes them attractive items to robbers who have grown tired of snatching purses.
Try this statistic on for size. According to an AP report, almost half of all robberies in San Francisco so far in 2012 have been cell phone related, and most of those thefts occurred on busy transit lines, not in dark alleyways. Thieves look for opportune times to make their move, such as one crook who plucked a smartphone out of his victim's hands who was sitting right in front of him, and then ran out of the rear of the bus, all within a matter of few seconds.
"This is your modern-day purse snatching," San Francisco Police Captain Joe Garrity told AP. "A lot of younger folks seem to put their entire lives on these things that don't come cheap."
Smartphone thieves are willing to go the distance, robbing people at gunpoint and, in some case, killing their target. Depending on how much cash someone is carrying around, a smartphone could be the most valuable item in their possession. It's not just San Francisco, either. In New York, police say smartphone theft accounts for more than 40 percent of all robberies. This is a growing problem that extends coast to coast.
Lawmakers and enforcers are kicking around ideas to curtail smartphone theft. In New York, for example, police encouraged everyone who purchased an iPhone 5 to come to the station and register their phone's serial number. In St. Louis, a proposed ordinance would require smartphone resellers to obtain a secondhand dealers license. And on a federal level, the Federation Communications Commission (FCC) is setting up a national database to track reported stolen phones.