Kill switches work. That’s the conclusion of a report by state attorneys general and other law enforcement officials. “Secure Our Smartphones,” released in June, reports that “new crime statistics show … that, after Apple added a ‘kill switch,’ robberies and grand larcenies involving iPhones plummeted. Simultaneously, violent crimes against people carrying phones without a kill switch surged.”
An estimated three million people in this country had their smartphones stolen last year, almost double the figure for the previous year. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón wrote in a Los Angeles Times op ed recently that, in addition to the trauma of a theft, “people store all sorts of data on their phones, including passwords and credit card information, [so] the ramifications of a theft can extend far beyond the loss of a costly phone and the fear that comes with being victimized.”
Pressured by attorneys general across the country but in particular New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Microsoft and Google agreed to add kill switches to the next versions of their mobile operating systems, Windows Phone and Android, respectively. They will join Apple, which added the feature to its popular iPhones last year.
“We can make the violent epidemic of smartphone theft a thing of the past, and these numbers prove that,” said Gascón.
The crimes below are a small snapshot of what the officers of Northern Station are doing. For a more comprehensive list, visit sf-police.org; under Compstat, there is a link to CrimeMAPS.
FAILED PARKING THERAPY
May 6, 9 a.m.
400 Block of Hayes Street
A victim told officers he was heading to work when he parked his motorcycle in a motorcycle parking spot, complete with a meter. But an unknown subject approached him, saying, “You can’t park here; you’re a piece of [censored] for parking here.” The victim said it was a legal parking spot and he would feed the meter, adding, “There is something else going on in your life and you are taking it out on me.”
The subject was reportedly enraged and pulled out a bottle of pepper spray from a pocket. The victim pulled down the visor of his helmet to protect himself from the subject’s pepper spray attack, which lasted for about 20 seconds. The victim then got onto his bike, drove away, and contacted the police. He did not have any complaints of pain from the pepper spray.
Officers looked for witnesses and found the owner of a nearby business, who told them he often has problems with the pepper-spraying subject. He said the subject harasses his employees for unknown reasons. Other neighbors also approached the officers and told them of problems they have with the subject. The motorcyclist victim said he wanted to press charges, and he signed a citizen’s arrest form. Officers then met with the subject, who told them the victim had started swearing and threatening him for no reason, so he used the pepper spray in self defense. (The victim and multiple witnesses disagreed.)
The subject was handcuffed, relieved of his pepper spray, and booked at Northern Station.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO ARREST SOME PEOPLE
May 7, 5 a.m.
Buchanan at Pine Streets
Officers responded to reports of an auto burglary in progress. They found the Jeep in question, which appeared to be undamaged. A witness approached them and said she saw two males nearby earlier, and she provided a description of the subjects and their car, which she said she believed to be associated with auto break-ins.
As the officers began to search for the car, they were flagged down by yet another citizen, who said he had called police dispatch to make a noise complaint. He said there were two suspicious men using power tools on the copper piping of a house in the area. Then an ambulance stopped near the officers and its driver told the officers about two subjects hiding behind a vehicle; he pointed out the vehicle.
Officers saw a subject run away from that vehicle; one officer chased that subject on foot while the other used the police vehicle. They ordered the subject to stop running, but he continued. The subject got into a vehicle and drove away, running red lights. Officers discontinued their pursuit for public safety reasons.
Assisting officers spotted the vehicle again several minutes later and pulled it over. This time, the subjects did not get to run away. The original responding officers arrived at the scene and identified the subject; the witness also positively identified the subjects. Their vehicle had numerous stolen items, burglary tools, and chopped-up copper piping. They were booked at Northern Station.
May 13, 5:15 p.m.
2100 Block of Polk Street
A store manager complained to the police about a subject who refused to leave the store. When the manager called the police, the subject reportedly tried to steal the phone from him and even punched him in the face. Another employee of the store said that the subject had come into the store and asked for water, which they gave him. The subject sat down, mumbled things under his breath, periodically searching the garbage cans. That was when he was asked to leave. He reportedly “went wild” at that point, screaming and throwing beverages at other customers and employees.
Operating with descriptions of the subject’s clothing and his direction of travel, officers were able to find and detain the subject, who was positively identified by the manager. The subject was booked at Northern Station, and the manager was given medical attention for a split lip he received.