54ºF

Cellphone thefts down in Orlando after 'kill switch'

Global task force pushing for more kill switches in phones

photo

ORLANDO, Fla. – Thousands of cellphones are stolen in Central Florida every year, but a new feature is making stealing cellphones no longer worth the trouble for thieves.

[WEB EXTRA: Stolen cellphone response citywide 2013 | Stolen cellphone response citywide 2014 ]

The feature is a type of technology called a kill switch. Apple added it in late 2013 and it's leading to fewer thefts of the devices across the globe and here in Orlando. Even as the City Beautiful's population has been increasing, phone-related thefts have dropped from 2,445 in 2013 to 2,221 in 2014.

The drop is even greater elsewhere -- down 40 percent in London, 16 percent in New York City and 22 percent in San Francisco, according to a global task force of officials.

"We immediately saw a modification of behavior on the street," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. "As thieves were taking phones, they realized they could not put the phone to use."

Aside from Apple, so far Samsung and Google have also programmed kill switches into their phones. Microsoft is expected to add the technology this year, according to CBS News.

The family of Megan Boken has been fighting for the technology since she was murdered for her cellphone in Missouri when she was just 23.

"It's just a complete nightmare. It's something that I struggle to come to terms with every day," said her sister, Annie Boken. "And my family will never be the same and I'll never be the same person."

Boken said she hopes all phone manufacturers add the kill switch as a default feature as soon as possible so other families don't risk losing a loved one over a phone.

It's been an uphill battle for the family, but they said they're determined to make the kill switch the standard and show no sign of backing down.

"Even when it seemed like it would be impossible to achieve this, we knew that we had to keep trying -- for Megan," Annie Boken said.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is on the global task force supporting kill switches, but right now there is no state law in Florida requiring kill switches. Last year, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to require them. California is expected to require kill switches by July 1.

Local 6 will keep viewers updated on whether Florida lawmakers jump on board with the law as well.