Devil’s Advocate: Consumers should do more to prevent cell phone theft

In Devil's Advocate, Opinion
Photo Illustration by John Pekcan / Daily Titan
Photo Illustration by John Pekcan / Daily Titan


We use it constantly, show it off to our friends and will never admit our addiction to it. It has changed the way we communicate with each other, the way we work, and it even has become a safety blanket for some. When we walk, we stare at it. When there is nothing else to look at or talk about, we seek our cell phones for help.

Yes, I’m talking about our cellphones, their capability is just short of extraordinary in our world today.

There have been a great number of hypothetical worst-case scenarios in which an individual has lost their phone and cannot contact their friends or family, because nobody bothers to memorize phone numbers. Many can’t even find their way because who knows how to read a map anymore?

And, without access to Facebook, how can we cry for help?

It’s upsetting how attached we are to our technology, and as much as it would give us a reason to cry if we lost it, imagine how one would cope if it were stolen.

Cell phone theft is a pretty serious crime considering how often it occurs. Years ago, before even flip-phones or QWERTY-keyboard cell phones were out, my grandma had her single-function and barely mobile device stolen right out of her hands. Twice! The second time she chased the guy down.

Then just last year, my best friend had his stolen on a night out and another friend found one lost, locked and incapable of being returned.

George Gascon, San Francisco’s district attorney, told New York Times that cell phone theft, “is a crime that could be easily fixed with a technological solution.” With all the apps and advancements, there should easily be something to help alleviate the pressures on police officials and cellphone carriers to reduce the amount of theft cases.

Yet, for something so personal as a cellphone, it should be left to an individual’s responsibility if such a thing goes missing. If violence is involved in the theft, then yes, of course the police should make it a priority. Just as with a laptop, camera, or address book, a cellphone is one of those things that is somewhat irreplaceable, so law enforcement still needs to have a strong investment in its reclamation.

However, as important as a cellphone is to an individual it is not a transferable responsibility once stolen. Passcodes, serial numbers and carriers can only do so much to discourage a potential robber. The best way to stop a theft, is to keep your phone on your person or within eyesight.

Simply, know where you’ve put it!

Otherwise, legislation could be put in place. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York proposed legislation that would make it illegal to modify a phone from its original settings. Essentially, this would mean that a phone’s International Mobile Station Equipment Identity, that is unique to every device, cannot be erased, as it would be difficult for authorities to prove it stolen if there is no traceable evidence of the original owner.

Making the crime of stealing cell phones even more illegal by reusing it or reselling it doesn’t guarantee an overall better rate of reduced theft. For whatever ways there are to discourage a thief or stop a stolen cell phone from working, there is no better way to prevent this than keeping your phone close, locked, and accounted for.

It’s one thing to expect law enforcement or carriers to be responsible for phone theft. It is a much more realistic expectation to put that burden on yourself or to put more preventative measures in the first place.

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