Boris Johnson Joins International “Secure Our Smartphones” Initiative

07 August 2013
  • Global coalition of elected officials and law enforcement agencies press phone industry to protect the safety of consumers
  • Smartphones theft is a global problem that demands a global solution

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson today announced that he has joined forces with the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón to support the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative. Launched earlier this year, the S.O.S. Initiative is a groundbreaking coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, attorneys general, state and city comptrollers, and public safety activists working to encourage the smartphone industry to implement meaningful solutions that will end the international epidemic of violent thefts of mobile communications devices such as smartphones and tablets.

In July Mayor Johnson wrote to the domestic CEO’s of the major manufacturers urging them to do more to tackle this problem and is convening a meeting in September with them to demand action.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Residents and visitors to our city need better protection from the menace of smartphone theft. Cities like London, New York and San Francisco all face the same challenge and that is why London is joining the Secure Our Smartphones campaign to help find a global solution. We need the industry to take this issue seriously and come up with a technical solution that can squash the illegal smartphone market that is fuelling this crime.”

Attorney General Schneiderman said “The epidemic of violent street crime involving the theft of mobile devices is a global problem that demands a global solution. Too often, smartphones stolen in New York, San Francisco or London are repackaged and sold on lucrative secondary markets around the world. By teaming up with international partners like Mayor Johnson we are sending the huge international corporations that dominate the smartphone industry a very powerful message demanding that they be good corporate citizens and take responsible steps to ensure the safety of our consumers.”

District Attorney George Gascón said “This is an international epidemic that is not unique to any one municipality, nation or continent. People are being victimized around the world for devices developed by transnational corporations. An effective strategy that combats the global market for stolen smartphones requires leadership from our partners abroad. Mayor Johnson's commitment to seeing this epidemic through to its terminus is a tremendous benefit to the hundreds of millions who own smartphones across the globe."

Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities across the United States and the United Kingdom the theft of smartphones has spiked dramatically. In the United States, one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device. Consumer Reports estimates that 1.6 million Americans were victimised by smartphone thieves in 2012.

Last year, 50 per cent of robberies in San Francisco targeted such a device. In New York City, the number was 20 per cent, a 40 per cent increase from the year before. Just last week, a half a dozen teenagers beat a 36 year old New York City man for his iPhone. In London, although crime overall is falling, offences such as pickpocketing and bag snatches have risen by over 15 per cent this year. This is mainly driven by the theft of phones, some 10,000 handsets stolen in the city every month.

Street-level thieves feed a massive global marketplace for stolen phones that is too large or lucrative for any single community to stop. Mobile devices that are reported stolen in the United States and no longer able to access domestic cell networks can be reactivated to work in foreign countries. In Hong Kong, for example, iPhones are worth upward of $2,000 apiece.

The Secure Our Smartphone Initiative is working to encourage the industry to find technical solutions that will remove the economic value of stolen smartphones, thereby drying up secondary markets and ending the national epidemic of violent street crimes commonly known as “Apple Picking.”


For more information on efforts by District Attorney Gascón, Attorney General Schneiderman, and London Mayor Boris Johnson to combat “Apple-Picking,” visit the San Francisco District Attorney’s website, the New York State Attorney General’s website, or London Mayor's website.