Capt. Jeff Richards of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office said that most of the reports investigated by the sheriff’s office of people breaking into automobiles involve a lost, missing or stolen cell phone.
The cell phone has become a top target of robbers who use stealth and force to take what they want. The thefts of cell phones — particularly the more expensive, all-inclusive smartphones containing everything from photos and music to private emails and bank account statements — are costing consumers millions of dollars and sending law enforcement agencies and wireless carriers nationwide scrambling for solutions.
The crime wave, which the Associated Press called “ubiquitous” in a report, is striking all over the nation, from New York City to Los Angeles.
“A lot of people keep their entire lives on these devices,” Richards said. “They can cost a lot of money to begin with, and a lot of valuable information can be gotten from them if they’re stolen.”
To prevent cell phone theft, Richards urged using common sense.
“If you have to keep them in the car to charge, then hide them from plain sight,” the captain said. “Don’t give a robber a reason to break into your car.”
Phones taken when they’re left in plain sight to charge is also a problem specific to smartphones, Richards said.
“These iPhones and other electronic devices seem like they need to be charged all the time,” he said. “So people will leave them plugged in, just waiting to be taken.”
Authorities stress that writing down the serial numbers of an expensive device could save a lot of time and hassle if the phone is ever recovered.
Several lawmakers, phone carriers and phone manufacturers have looked at ways to both discourage theft and make the consumer whole again after a theft occurs.
A national database to track reported stolen phones is scheduled to launch in late 2013, with major U.S. cell phone carriers and the Federal Communications Commission on board.
The co-founder of Lookout, a San Francisco-bsaed mobile security firm, told the Associated Press that his company estimates that stolen cell phones could cost American consumers more than $30 billion this year.
The iPhone has an application called Find My iPhone that allows remote location-tracking from another Apple device.
The lightweight phones offer a quick crime of opportunity, a crime that police are calling “the new purse-snatching.”
Richards said nearly all of the thefts that come from entering auto reports are thefts of cell phones, tablet computers or navigational systems.
“If people would just be more careful, there wouldn’t be so many of these thefts,” Richards said. “Don’t leave them in plain view if you have to leave them at all.”