Riley Johnson, a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star, penned an interesting article in Saturday morning's paper about the rising numbers of stolen smartphones. No doubt about it, they are a hot commodity right now. I pointed out to Riley that the uptick in smartphone thefts probably is offset by the reduction in thefts of other items. Allow me to explain.
Last year, I was the keynote speaker at the Law Enforcement Information Management Conference. During the speech, I told he audience that if I had been on the same trip just a few years earlier, my kit would likely have included a Casio digital camera, an Olympus microcassette recorder, a Dell laptop, a Palm VII, a Samsung cell phone, a Garmin Nuvi GPS, and an Apple iPod--each with it's own charger. If you had stolen my briefcase in 2006 or so, it would have been a treasure trove of personal electronics. Then I held up my iPhone, and explained that the smartphone performed all of those functions today, and more--walkie talkie, police scanner, spirit level, weather station, travel clock, flashlight, video camera, and so forth.
The briefcase is very light today, and if you snagged my tablet or phone, I could remotely wipe and disable it as soon as I realized it had gone missing. There may be a lot more stolen smartphones over the past few years, but as the data I provided Mr. Riley demonstrates, there are fewer GPS devices, digital cameras, and media devices being stolen, as more and more people use their smartphones for these purposes, consigning their iPod, Canon, and TomTom to a drawer from which they are rarely retrieved. The current hot commodities for theft tend to change over time, with the exception of the always-popular stuff: cash, cigarettes, liquor, jewelry, guns.
Remember the Palm? Before tablets and smartphones, personal digital assistants were huge. PDAs ruled the personal electronics roost from the mid 1990s through the mid 2000s, especially the Palm Pilot. There were a lot a varieties of PDAs and competing operating systems. Several of these overlapped during this time period. I pretty much owned them all at one time or another.
They were also hot products for theft. Not any more, though. Despite the wild popularity of the Palm Pilot, which was in the briefcase or backpack of all the cool kids by the late 1990s, the last Palm stolen in Lincoln was taken in a burglary, on March 8, 2011. I suppose another one will eventually be stolen--from a museum, or from some private collector.