Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and other East Bay leaders Thursday called on the state Assembly to pass legislation that would require smartphones to come equipped with an anti-theft deterrent known as a "kill switch."
Speaking at a news conference on the steps of Oakland City Hall, Quan said a bill co-authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, has already been passed in the state Senate and was approved by an Assembly committee earlier this week.
But Quan said the bill still faces "stiff opposition" by many telecommunications and insurance companies and must clear another Assembly committee next Monday as well as the full Assembly before it can to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
She said the idea behind kill switches is to allow cellphone users to remotely wipe and lock a stolen phone, which she said would deter cellphone thefts by making them hard to resell and reuse.
Quan said the legislation is especially important in cities such as Oakland where there are a large number of robberies. She said cellphone robberies account for three-fourths of all robberies in Oakland.
Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb said the vote in the Assembly committee next Monday "will be tough" and "is not a slam dunk" because of opposition by some telecommunications and insurance companies.
Kalb said if the state Legislature fails to pass kill switch legislation, Oakland and other Bay Area cities would consider passing local ordinances.
Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington said kill switch legislation would make students at the University of California at Berkeley and in Berkeley's public schools safer because many of them are the victims of cellphone thefts.
Alameda Vice Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft said a kill switch law is "a simple solution that would render cellphone crimes useless."
Oakland police Chief Sean Whent said a kill switch law would provide "a disincentive for people to commit crimes and go a long way to stopping cellphone robberies."
Whent said criminals like to steal cellphones because they can then re-sell them "for a few hundred dollars of quick cash."
At a separate news conference in New York City, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon joined New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in announcing that Google and Microsoft will incorporate a kill switch into the next version of their respective operating systems.
They said the announcement means that a kill switch will be incorporated into the three dominant smartphone operating systems -- Android, iOS, and Windows Phone -- that currently encompass 97 percent of smartphones in the U.S.
Gascon and Schneiderman said a new report issued by the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, an international partnership of law enforcement agencies, elected officials and consumer advocates, says crime statistics show that after Apple added a kill switch, robberies and grand larcenies
involving iPhones plummeted.
At the same time, violent crimes against people carrying phones without a kill switch surged, according to the study.Gascon said in a statement, "We can make the violent epidemic of smartphone theft a thing of the past, and these numbers prove that."
Gascon said, "It was evident from day one that a technological solution was not only possible, but that it would serve as an effective deterrent to this growing threat."
He said, "In the year ahead we will work to ensure this technology is deployed industry-wide and in the most effective manner possible."