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You Tell Us: Cellphone ‘kill switches’ will cut robberies

on May 15, 2014

The State Senate went to school and wised up on smartphones last week by passing SB 962, sponsored by State Senator Mark Leno.  The bill will require all new smartphones sold in California to have a ‘kill switch’ deactivation mechanism pre-enabled on each phone. Two weeks prior, they had voted down the bill falling just two votes short.

As an Oakland local elected official and the victim of an armed robbery, I know that, while most serious crimes are trending down in our city, robberies continue to be a serious problem for many neighborhoods.

The theft of smartphones accounts for one third of all robberies in the United States, making it the number one property crime in the country. This trend is reflected here in Oakland with approximately 75% of our robberies involving the theft of a smartphone. In fact, OPD has observed that local criminal enterprises have been focusing on stolen personal electronics and that the volume of robberies in our city is being driven by the significant resale value of cell phones.

While investigating and solving crimes after they happen is a fundamentally important component of making our neighborhoods safer, traditional policing and prosecution alone won’t be enough to deter most robberies. That is why we need a ‘kill switch’ solution on each new phone sold in our state. The result will be that stolen devices will turn into paperweights, effectively removing the re-sale value of phones and reducing the incentive for muggers to prey on smartphone users.

The wireless phone industry earns an estimated $30 billion annually from lost and stolen devices through the selling of replacement phones and theft insurance policies. Consequently, the industry lacks motivation to effectively end this problem. Voluntary efforts sound nice, but they do nothing to deter this serious crime.  Apple and Microsoft dropped their opposition to the bill after Leno amended it to exclude tablets from the kill switch requirement and defer the effective date by six months to July 2015. However, most big telecom companies remain opposed.

I pushed for introduction of this bill and have been actively lobbying for its passage. I, along with Mayor Jean Quan and the Oakland City Council, have made this bill a top legislative priority.  The bill is supported by law enforcement, local governments, students, and consumer groups up and down the state. I am now working to urge the State Assembly to follow the Senate’s action, and I intend to do whatever it takes to get this bill signed by our Governor.

Dan Kalb is an Oakland City Councilmember for District One.


  1. Erik on May 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Telecoms are opposed because they sell theft replacement insurance, and also a stolen phone means for them an additional replacement phone sale to the victim and a new customer in whoever ends up buying the stolen phone.

  2. Samuel Shafer on June 2, 2014 at 9:50 pm


    Who is writing your copy? In the article on supporting ethics reform, as well as one on cell phone legislation, you fail to provide essential information to the reader. What is the ethics reform all about, and how does the concept of a “kill switch” work? This type of information is vital to a reader trying to understand what you are writing about. You need to seriously work on bringing clarity to your material.


    Rev. Samuel H. Shafer

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