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Law would require "kill switches" on smartphones to stop theft

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Law would require "kill switches" on smartphones to stop theft
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Smart phone theft is an epidemic. That's according to legislators and law enforcement officials. As our Katie Gibas reports, it's a crime that's costing people a lot more than their phone.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- "People who are on the smartphones are often distracted, listening to music. People knock them over, grab them and it's very common, and it's too easy," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Authorities are calling smartphone thefts an epidemic. In Syracuse alone, 35 percent of the city's robberies last year, involved cell phones.

"One point six million Americans a year are victimized, assaults, even murders. We've had people in my office who lost family members who were shot for their smartphones," said Schneiderman .

That's why Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act. The legislation would require cell phone manufacturers to install a "kill-switch" on all phones sold in the U.S.

"The crime wave will end as soon as all the manufacturers install "Kill Switches," so you can cancel it like a credit card. Then the crime wave ends. The thieves have no incentive to do this. But it has to be industry-wide and it has to be something the crooks know everyone has the capability of using," said Schneiderman.

Police Chief Frank Fowler said, "It's extremely important to law enforcement because it will provide us with the necessary tools to educate the public and discourage those who want to engage in stealing and robbing people for these types of cell phones. And sooner, rather than later. The need is definitely there."

Schneiderman says the legislation is needed because there's been a push back from both manufacturers and carriers to install kill switches.

"They were making $30 billion per year, the manufacturers were, in replacing lost and stolen smartphones, and that seems to us to be a more serious reason for their reluctance and concern over customer choice. We also confronted the fact that when one manufacturer wanted to install a very strong "kill switch" technology that they got resistance from the carriers, the phone companies who make money selling insurance for your smartphone" said Schneiderman.

Legislators hope the threat of this bill will be enough to get smart phone manufacturers and carriers to comply.

Last year, Apple installed an activation lock. And recently Samsung also announced similar technology.

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