AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliAssemblyman Tom Ammiano

AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliAssemblyman Tom Ammiano

Gascón to review the latest cellphone anti-theft technology

Representatives of Apple and Samsung are scheduled Thursday to show District Attorney George Gascón new anti-theft security features they have installed in models of their respective smartphones.

Technical experts will be tasked with trying to work around anti-theft features on an Apple iPhone 5 with Activation Lock enabled and a Samsung Galaxy S4 with Lojack for Android.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, Gascón and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — with whom Gascón launched the Secure Our Smartphones initiative last month — said they appreciate the efforts of Apple and Samsung but want to be sure the technology is sound.

“We are not going to take them at their word,” the statement said. “We will assess the solutions they are proposing and see if they stand up to the tactics commonly employed by thieves.”

Gascón has been urging smartphone makers to modify their products in response to the ongoing rise in cellphone robberies in San Francisco and other U.S. communities.

In June, the district attorney teamed up with Schneiderman on Secure Our Smartphones. The initiative is a coalition that includes prosecutors, police, politicians and consumer advocates from more than a dozen states. It urges phone makers to install kill switches that would remotely disable smartphones, which could make them less valuable and thus less of a target for thieves.

On the same day Secure Our Smartphones was announced June 13, Gascón and Schneiderman met with representatives from Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft. Both said Apple and Samsung were taking steps in the right direction but that other cellphone makers were lagging.

An online petition for the initiative on Change.org had garnered 830 supporters as of Wednesday. Some who signed the petition said they did so for loved ones who had been hurt or killed during robberies involving smartphones.

“Megan Boken was murdered last August b/c two kids wanted her cellphone,” Jordann Tomasek of Aurora, Ill., wrote as her reason for signing the petition.

Nationwide, nearly one in three robberies involve a cellphone, according to the Federal Communications Commission. In San Francisco, the ratio is even higher, with about half of all robberies last year involving such a device, police data show.

Gascón previously told The San Francisco Examiner that the telecommunications industry was slow to act on his requests to address the problem, and he believed it was about the bottom line.

“I get this thing stolen and now I've got to buy another one,” Gascón has said, adding that the telecommunications industry is “making a ton of money.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bay Area Newscellphone kill switchcellphone theftsGeorge Gascon

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