California Governor Signs Landmark Leno Bill Addressing Smartphone Theft

First of its kind legislation prompts every consumer to enable theft-deterring technology during setup of a new smartphone

By Melanie Nathan, August 25 2014

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation today addressing the growing epidemic of smartphone theft in California. SB 962, authored by Senator Mark Leno and sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, requires all smartphones sold in California to come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technological solutions to render the devices useless if stolen. The bill is the first of its kind in the nation prompting every consumer to enable a kill switch as the default setting during the initial setup of a new smartphone. 2011-6-2 18-8-8m“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Starting next year, all smartphones sold in California, and most likely every other state in the union, will come equipped with theft deterrent technology when they purchase new phones. Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.”

According to Consumer Reports, the number of victims of smartphone theft in the U.S. nearly doubled from 1.6 million to 3.1 million between 2012 and 2013, a 94 percent increase in a single year. The epidemic of smartphone thefts is most prevalent in California’s largest cities. In San Francisco, 67 percent of all robberies involve the theft of a mobile communications device, and in Oakland that number is as high as 75 percent. Los Angeles has seen a 30 percent increase in smartphone theft since 2011, while San Diego has experienced a 34 percent increase. In Sacramento, 22 percent of all robberies involve the theft of a smartphone.

“This epidemic has impacted millions across the nation and millions more around the globe, but today we turn the page,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “Seldom can a public safety crisis be addressed by a technological solution, but today wireless consumers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Soon, stealing a smartphone won’t be worth the trouble, and these violent street crimes will be a thing of the past. The devices we use every day will no longer make us targets for violent criminals.”

SB 962 is universally supported by statewide law enforcement groups, including the California District Attorneys Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California Sheriffs Association. In addition, wireless industry companies including Apple, AT&T, Blackberry, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Verizon have all removed their opposition to the bill.

The bill requires theft-deterrent technology to come standard on all smartphones sold in California, a departure from the status-quo where consumers are required to seek out and enable the technology. SB 962 puts the onus on manufacturers to make this technology the default setting on all new smartphones, giving consumers the option to opt-out from using it should they choose. As a result, nearly all consumers will have the technology enabled, effectively deterring smartphone theft.

“My family is very pleased that the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act has become law in California,” said Paul Boken, father of Megan Boken. Megan tragically lost her life during a smartphone robbery in St. Louis in 2012. “We want to thank Senator Leno and DA Gascón for allowing us to be part of this effort.  This law, when fully implemented, will ensure no one has to deal with the loss of a loved one like we did when we lost our beloved daughter Megan.”

SB 962 applies to smartphones manufactured after July 1, 2015 and sold in California.

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