Smartphone theft down in San Francisco, but not on BART

Lyanne Melendez Image
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Smartphone theft down in San Francisco thanks to California 'kill switch' law
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Officials said a new state law requiring manufacturers to put a "kill switch" in smartphones is making your cellphone less desirable to thieves

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There's great news for smartphone users in San Francisco -- thefts of these devices are down significantly, except if you get on BART. The transit agency says it's starting a campaign to warn people that this type of crime continues.

San Francisco has seen the number of smartphone thefts reduced by 50 percent since 2013 when the number of robberies reached a record high.

"People were getting viciously assaulted for their smartphones," said Max Szabo of the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. "It was snatch and go robberies. People were getting beaten.

VIDEO: What to do if your cellphone gets snatched

That was before the San Francisco District Attorney's office pushed to have California pass a law in 2014 demanding that the wireless industry install a software commonly known as a kill switch. When the phone is stolen, the thief is unable to put it on a new carrier because only the original user has the username and password.

"I'm kind of dependent on our modern technology to save my phone for me if something happens," said Elsie Adams of Oakland.

Despite this knowledge, this type of crime continues on BART trains and in stations.

"We're still seeing a level number of cellphone and electronic thefts," said BART Police Deputy Chief Ed Alvarez. "The thefts are occurring as the trains are pulling into the station and the doors open. The phone gets taken, or electronic devices and they run off the train."

BART now makes periodic announcements on its PA system and will soon have posters warning people throughout the stations.

"As you can see, I carry it in my back pocket," said one passenger. "I'm pretty confident no one will jump me and take my phone. I'm ready for it."

BART hopes passengers will become more aware of their surroundings.