Group of people using mobile devices

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There has been a rash of iPhone robberies in our neighborhood over the past few weeks.

The crimes, like the one described by victim Liz Jager Surles, are committed using guns and frightening aggression. Aggravated robbery is a pretty serious crime, which makes some of us ask: all this for a phone?

Yes, turns out the black market for smartphones, especially the latest-model iPhone, is booming. Increase in ownership of smartphones equals prolific “Apple picking”  — yes, armed cell phone robbery has a clever nickname. Depressing, huh?

Several months ago Ben Wiseman of Wired.com reported on the secret world of stolen smartphones.

In 2009, roughly 5 percent of the global population owned a smartphone, Wiseman reports. “Before 2015 is out, that number is expected to hit 35 percent, or 2.5 billion people—approximately the populations of China and India combined. Considering the ever-quickening pace of technological innovation and the shrinking cost of processors and chipsets, it does not take a particularly fertile imagination to picture the day when, perhaps as soon as 2017, half the world will be hooked up to the small screen of a smartphone.”

He points out how important these little devices are: “For many of us, they are among our most valuable possessions. Or, at the very least, they are among the most valuable possessions that we cart with us everywhere we go … machines that hold our entire lives in their RAM, from family photos to work emails to the balances of our bank accounts. Machines that can be swiped, wiped, and resold for hundreds of bucks in the space of an hour, often without the help of a pawnshop or a professional fence. Machines that are worth 13 times more, per ounce, than a block of silver.”

Wow. And while, yes, it is certainly a problem in East Dallas, we are not alone.

“… that’s why theft of mobile devices—or ‘Apple picking,’ as it’s known—has been such a widespread crime in recent years. According to Consumer Reports, 3.1 million Americans were the victims of smartphone theft in 2013, up from 1.6 million in 2012. The mobile security firm Lookout believes that one in 10 smartphone users in the US have had their phones stolen; 68 percent of those victims never saw their device again. Nationally, about one-third of robberies now involve a smartphone.”

To make matters worse, the mobil industry has resisted efforts to prevent street theft, according to the article. They benefit from selling theft insurance and/or replacement phones.

In the end, like detectives here in Dallas, the conclusion seems to be this: Don’t make yourself a target. Get a tracking application. Don’t walk the streets with your phone in plain sight. “You want to put up obstacles for the criminals at every turn.”


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