An unknown number of robbers take victims’ iPods. Should manufacturer Apple devise some kind of antitheft component? The Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute held a forum yesterday on the “personal technology-violent crime connection.” Institute researchers John Roman and Aaron Chalfin argue in a forthcoming paper in the American Criminal Law Review that the iPod is a “criminogenic product” resonsible for at least part of the national robbery increase in the U.S.. They note that “the costs of reusing a stolen iPod are trivial” and that iPod users are vulnerable to attack because they are distracted by listening to music. The authors point out that other crime waves have been triggered by high-status products such as expensive basketballs shoes and North Face jackets.
Reaction to the thesis was mixed. Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum agreed that robberies have increased and electronic devices may have played a part, but said they can’t be blamed for rises in homicide and aggravated assault. Business Week technology columnist Steve Wildstrom said it would be hard to get manufacturers to change their products because it is the same elements, such as ease of use, that attract both legitimate buyers and criminals. With the price of iPods expected to drop, their attractiveness to robbers will, too, he said. Several panelists and attendees said expensive new gadgets are bound to appear, and suggested that their makers consider antitheft protections. Wildstrom predicted that many devices of the future will be able to communicate, as cell phones do, and that the ease of identifying their locations will deter robbers.