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Guard your iPhone: 40 per cent of stolen items in NYC are Apple gadgets

A customer uses his new iPhone 4S after making the purchase at Apple's flagship retail store in San Francisco, California October 14, 2011.

Robert Galbraith/REUTERS

Police call it "Apple picking."

The rise of "iCrime" – which has seen Apple users robbed, attacked and murdered for their iPhones and iPads –  has police in urban centres calling for better remote "kill switches" on devices, as well as national cellphone registries that would blacklist thieves with the help of ID numbers, instead of interchangeable SIM cards.

Over the weekend, New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly told CNN that 40 per cent of the items now stolen in New York City are Apple gadgets.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, iCrime is growing exponentially in American cities, with thieves eager for secondhand phones and tablets that can fetch some $400 U.S.

Public transit riders are the easiest targets, especially when they're sitting next to an exit: "When the doors open, a veteran thief will swipe the device and flee, the doors closing behind him," WSJ's Rolfe Winkler wrote last week.

Mr. Winkler revealed that he chased down a thief who nabbed his date's iPad as they rode the subway in Brooklyn, reading an e-book together. The thief's accomplice broke Mr. Winkler's jaw in the process.

"After all, what's the point of a mobile device if people don't feel safe using it while they're mobile?" the reporter asked.

In Toronto, cellphone robberies have doubled since 2009, with 1,800 cases in 2011, according to a city councillor who pointed to an incident involving a 17-year-old attacked with a machete when he refused to hand over his phone.

Police here want federal legislation that would force wireless providers to create a national registry that would help deny service to stolen devices – a blacklist, in effect. In Vancouver, which saw an increase of 37 per cent in cellphone thefts between 2010 and 2011, police have recommended similar laws.

Until then, it's up to Apple addicts to remain vigilant – and stop zoning out in their technology while on public transit.

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Have you ever had a smartphone or tablet stolen? What did you do about it?

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