In recent years, many areas of the United States have experienced a surge in crimes involving the theft of mobile devices. According to Consumer Reports, an estimated 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in the United States in 2013. Mobile device theft has become a significant driver of robberies in the country and internationally, playing a role in approximately 50 percent of all robberies in the cities of New York, San Francisco, and London in 2013. This trend has prompted considerable debate in the media and among public officials, cellphone makers, wireless companies, and other stakeholders about how to address the problem.
Numerous theories have been voiced about the drivers of smartphone theft. Some have suggested that the increase in smartphone theft is partly due to the increasing popularity of these devices among consumers and their prevalence amongst the general public. Others point to an insatiable demand for secondhand smartphones in overseas markets, raising their value and hence the economic incentives for theft. A few observers have suggested that the presence of ecoATM kiosks, where consumers can recycle their smartphones for cash, has helped fuel smartphone thefts in nearby areas.
This paper presents an empirical analysis of the robbery and larceny-theft rates in major U.S. cities during the years from 2009 through 2013. The purpose of this analysis is two-fold. First, we wish to determine if statistical evidence of a causal relationship exists between the presence of ecoATM kiosks and crime rates. Second, we consider the relationship between citywide rates of robbery and larceny-theft and various socioeconomic and demographic attributes of a particular metropolitan area. While this latter topic has been researched extensively in the criminology and economics literature, we believe it useful in light of the current public debate to revisit the issue based on the most recent data for U.S. metropolitan areas. Our analysis relies on city-level data on robberies and larceny-thefts collected annually by the FBI, in addition to Census data on demographic and socioeconomic variables.
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Topics: Cell Phones, Crime Statistics, FBI, Larceny, Mobile Devices, Recycling, Theft
Published In: Communications & Media Updates, Criminal Law Updates, Science, Computers & Technology Updates
DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.
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