Smartphones are the reason crime is skyrocketing in Oakland, San Francisco and NYC
If cell manufacturers would include a kill switch, it could end phone theft as we know it.
The robbery surge has not only deepened Oakland's reputation for being a crime-ridden city, but it also has put longtime residents on edge. A recent poll commissioned by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce found that 55 percent of respondents said they now feel "less safe." In fact, several neighborhoods throughout the city have decided in recent weeks to hire private security companies to patrol their areas in an effort to stop the robbery epidemic from spreading.
"Every robbery requires an element of force or fear — there's an overwhelming sense of vulnerability that comes with the crime," noted Oakland police Lieutenant Chris Bolton, who works in the department's geographic Area 2, which includes the city's Temescal district. "People are feeling victimized in their own neighborhoods. These types of crimes are toxic to the feeling of safety."
According to law enforcement experts, the driving force behind the robbery outbreak nationwide is the expanding global market for stolen electronics — including cellphones, tablets, and laptops. Oakland police officials say that some criminal street gangs have gone so far as to abandon the illegal drug trade in favor of the more lucrative stolen electronics market.
According to OPD estimates, 75 percent of street robberies in Oakland now involve a cellphone. In San Francisco, nearly 50 percent of all robberies include a smartphone. And in New York City, smartphone thefts now account for more than 40 percent of all robberies (a 40 percent increase from 2011), inspiring the police force to coin the term "apple picking" to refer to iPhone theft. Consumer Reports estimated that 1.6 million Americans were victims of cellphone robbery last year.