2010-01-01 / Top Stories

Weiner: Consumer Electronics Theft On The Rise

With Christmas upon us, Representative Anthony Weiner, a member of the House Judiciary Crime, Terror ism and Homeland Security Sub-committee, and Representative Carolyn Maloney released a new study showing that thefts of the top five most popular electronic items rose 43 percent since 2007. According to FBI data, nearly 400,000 laptops, cell phones, televisions, video games and cameras have been stolen this year alone.

With 90 percent of American households owning a cell phone and 77 percent owning a digital camera, technologies that were only beginning to penetrate the consumer market a decade ago are now nearly as common in an average household as a television or a microwave. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average American household spent $1,200 last year on a variety of consumer electronics (TVs, laptops, MP3 players, etc.). As sales of these products have increased, they have become more popular targets for potential thieves.

“As the technology gets smaller, the target becomes larger for i-Thieves. It’s an omnipresent, miniature electronics crime paradox; even as crime goes down, when you have more electronics, you have more theft,” Weiner said.

“New Yorkers need to be aware that thieves are targeting their phones and other electronic devices,” said Maloney. “I thank my colleague and good friend Anthony Weiner for organizing this study and putting together a plan to help curb what is becoming a major quality-of-life issue in our city and the nation: the theft of small consumer electronics. This holiday season, keep your cell phone close and your iPod closer!”

Key Findings of Study: • Thefts for the top five stolen electronic

items – laptops, cell phones, televisions, video game systems and

cameras – all increased over the past

year. • Laptops remain the item most commonly

stolen, with over 128,000

reported stolen nationally, a 31 percent

increase since 2007. • Home and portable video game systems

(i.e. – Sony PSP, Nintendo DS) saw the largest percentage increase,

a staggering 285 percent increase

since 2007. • Televisions, which saw a 188 percent

increase in reported theft, came in

second both by percentage and in

real numbers. • Cell phones saw the largest increase

in real numbers, increasing by

26,298, or 33 percent, to 106,968

between 2008 and 2009. • According to FBI data, following the

late June 2007 release of the original iPhone, cell phone thefts spiked,

with 31,000 being reported stolen in

July 2007 alone. • Cameras, both digital and 35mm,

saw a 40 percent increase since 2007, with 39,454 reported stolen in 2009.

Modeled on popular services in the United Kingdom, Weiner’s iCrime legislation (Internet Consumer Registry for Impeding the Theft of Mobile Electronics) would create a national opt-in database run by the Depart ment of Com merce for consumers, manufacturers, retailers, servicers, and law enforcement agencies. The plan would create a single website where people could share owner information and a phone number that victims could use to report the theft.

This information would be used to: • Discourage the purchase of stolen

goods by allowing consumers to know whether a second hand item

they are looking to purchase is

stolen. • Help law enforcement agencies

track, arrest and prosecute thieves. • Assist law enforcement in returning

recovered items to their owners.

If a cell phone or another electronic device that uses a cellular network is reported stolen on the website or over the phone, cellular providers would then be required to shutdown service to that device within 24 hours. The cell phone companies would then blacklist the product from ever being reactivated on any network.

“Theft is a quality of life issue and safety issue that we cannot tolerate. We need to give retailers, law enforcement and government agencies the tools they need to combat this crime epidemic.” Weiner said. “My plan would do that.”

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