Smartphone theft continues as legislation stalls


Scarcely a week goes by when a Bronxite is not victimized for his or her smartphone.

Sometimes the theft leads to tragedy, as when two men killed Hwang Yang, a 26-year-old Riverdalian, for his iPhone in April 2012.

In the most recent incident in the northwest Bronx, the victim was luckier. A 30-year-old woman escaped unharmed after a man stole her Samsung Galaxy on West 225th Street near the River Plaza Target store on the morning of March 20. Police were still searching for a roughly 20-year-old male suspect as of press time.

“You just can’t walk down the street with an iPhone in your hand these days,” said Deputy Inspector Paul Rasa, the 50th Precinct’s commanding officer.

While state and federal anti-smartphone theft legislation — including a recent proposal by Bronx Congressman José Serrano — slowly gains momentum, the 50th Precinct is reporting a slight shift in trends, with criminals apparently targeting popular Samsung Galaxies more than iPhones due to anti-theft improvements to the latter devices.

According to 50th Precinct statistics, out of 24 smartphone thefts over the last 12 months, 17 of the devices were iPhones.

But Officer Juan Ventura said criminals are increasingly targeting Galaxies since the latest iPhones feature anti-theft measures that the Samsung products still lack.

Officer Ventura said the newest version of the iPhone, the 5S, has security features like fingerprint recognition that can prevent someone else from using the device. Tech news outlets have reported the next generation Samsung smartphone will include a fingerprint scanner.

Officer Ventura added that iPhones already come with a “kill switch” — along the lines of a measure proposed by Mr. Serrano — that lets owners remotely shut down their devices and make them unsuitable for resale.

Although a 2012 Federal Communications Commission study found more than 40 percent of all robberies in New York City involve smartphones, the way criminals resell so many of the devices largely remains a mystery.

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