NYC, San Francisco aim to stop 'Apple picking' phone muggings

Smart phone theft is up nationwide, and especially in large cities. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman hope to counteract it. 

Men are silhouetted against a video screen as they pose with the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Nokia Lumia 820 and the iPhone 4 smartphones in this 2013 photo illustration.

Later today, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – along with a cadre of representatives from Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, and Motorola – will meet in New York for a sit-down being dubbed the "Smartphone Summit."

The idea, Mr. Gascon and Mr. Schneiderman wrote recently in a press release, is to "press cell phone manufacturers and mobile operating system suppliers on their failure thus far to produce technology that would allow stolen devices to be rendered permanently inoperable and that would, therefore, eliminate incentives for theft." What they want, in other words, is a "kill switch" – a feature that would prevent a stolen smart phone from working. 

The meeting comes in the midst of a notable uptick in smart phone thefts, often called "Apple-picking" incidents. Consumer Reports, for instance, has reported that 1.6 million Americans were the victims of smart phone theft last year alone. (Hat tip to CBS News.) Meanwhile, San Francisco police have estimated that half of all thefts in the city involve a mobile device; in New York, the number is closer to 40 percent. 

In addition to the Smartphone Summit, the Associated Press says Schneiderman and Gascon will today announce the creation of something called the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative – a nationwide "coalition of police, prosecutors and other officials in an attempt to thwart a surge in smartphone thefts." 

In related news, earlier this week, at the WWDC event in San Francisco, Apple unveiled an "Activation Lock," which will be a part of the forthcoming iOS 7 mobile operating system. 

"In essence, it is what it sounds like: if someone steals your phone and chooses to disable Find My iPhone, he won't be able to reactivate the phone," wrote Engadget's Dana Wollman, who was on hand for the event. "Same if they wipe the phone – they'll be forced to sign in with your Apple ID and password, which they obviously wouldn't know."

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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