Senate push for cell phone kill switch

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Boy do a lot of us love our phones.

But so do the thieves.

Right now, thefts of smart phones are sky-rocketing, especially on Metro.

So Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md) announced she's co-sponsoring a bill to require a mandatory remote kill switch on all new smart phones.

Search YouTube and you'll find surveillance video of the robberies, even crooks who video their buddies stealing phones from people on Metro. It's now happening an average of twice a day.

"That single mother working three jobs and trying to stay in touch with her kids, this is a big deal," says Mikulski.

US carriers are selling more than $70 billion of phones a year. And thieves can steal and re-sell them for a quick couple of hundred. "There is more money in this type of crime than four times the budget of the FBI," says Mikulski.

The bill she's working on would require every new smart phone imported or sold in the US to be equipped with software that would allow it's owner to kill it remotely over the internet... or wipe the phone clean of all personal data. "You will be able to deactivate this device so it's worthless to the criminal."

DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the wireless carriers are far from innocent in this. She says they are making money off insurance, and replacing all those expensive phones after their sold.

And carriers are resisting the kill switch mandate... The wireless industry association says "carriers, manufacturers, and software developers (should be) free to create new, innovative loss and theft prevention tools for consumers who want them."

But it's clear a lot of people want something done. "When I'm not at my desk, this is my lifeline," says Shah Khan of Mt. Airy, Md, clutching his Nokia Lumia outside the Chinatown/Galllery Place Metro Station.

Metro Transit Police have another bit of advice: Get your face out of your phone. Chief Ron Pavlek says a lot of these snatch and runs could be prevented if people paid a little more attention to what's going on around them.


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