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BoJo demands mobile 'kill switch' as thefts surge

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is leading calls for a mobile 'kill switch' to become standard, that disables phones the minute they're stolen.

About 10,000 mobile phones are stolen in London every month, according to Scotland Yard. That's up by 15 per cent in the last year. This spike in so-called "Apple-picking" (after the ubiquitous smart phone-maker) has prompted none other than mayor of London Boris Johnson to lead calls for a 'kill switch' that would disable mobiles the minute they're nabbed.

BoJo is joining forces with officials from New York and San Francisco to form a cross-Atlantic collaboration on the issue, and put pressure on the mobile manufacturers to make a kill switch an industry standard, the FT reports.

BoJo has even put pen to paper, writing to the UK heads of Apple, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Microsoft, BlackBerry and Sony, demanding they take action. His main bugbear? Mobile shops are too happy to exchange broken smart phones for new models, without investigating whether they were stolen or not. It may sound an unlikely ruse, but one ne'er-do-well is thought to have got away with exchanging 170 stolen mobiles for new models in one London shop over the course of a year, according to police.

BoJo's letter reads: "Customers and shareholders surely deserve to know that business cannot and must not benefit directly from smart phone theft through sales of replacement devices."

Last week, a "Secure Our Smart Phones" demo in the US showed off new theft deterrent methods for Apple and Samsung devices, but it's not enough for the officials. They want the kill switch to become standard across the industry as soon as possible, to make mobiles less attractive to thieves.

Apple told the FT that it had "led the industry in helping customers protect their lost or stolen devices".

Is a kill switch a good idea? What else can be done to curb mobile thefts? And have you ever had your phone stolen? Let me know in the comments, or on our safe as houses Facebook page.

Image credit: Greater London Authority