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Wifi and Laptops Adds Up To Theft 329

Posted by Zonk
from the i'm-being-stolen-right-now dept.
Ant writes to mention an SFGate article about the increase in laptop theft in the world of ubiquitous wifi. From the article: "San Francisco police statistics show a disturbing trend. Just 18 laptop computer robberies were logged in 2004, but the figure jumped to 48 last year. There were 18 as of the end of March, a pace that could surpass 70 crimes this year. 'It's a changing culture, and crime is following it'"
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Wifi and Laptops Adds Up To Theft

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:08PM (#15102783)
    That there are more laptops, being stolen at the same rate. What does wifi have to do with it?
  • FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by babbling (952366) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:09PM (#15102790)
    Attacking someone for their laptop isn't really any different than attacking them for anything else. This isn't new. Whenever you reveal in public something of particular worth, there's a possibility that some moron is going to attack you in the hopes of stealing it from you.
  • by Loconut1389 (455297) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:12PM (#15102803)
    TFA points out that people congregate with laptops at hotspots. This is true. Thiefs know they can find one or many at such a place.

    Before I RTFA'd, I had the same thought. Afterwards, I still have the contention that people would still sit at starbucks and work on excel wireless or no.

    More laptops does = more crime. Hotspots may be a factor, but not nearly like they make it out to be.
  • Really? That's it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theheff (894014) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:15PM (#15102815)
    If you consider that San Francisco consists of millions of people... is 18 really a lot? I mean sure, stolen property it stolen property, but the figures sound rather minute.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:17PM (#15102830)
    Presumably that's just the 18 that bothered to fill out a police report. The true number is probably much higher.
  • by outZider (165286) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:20PM (#15102849) Homepage
    You can't get a return on your insurance without a police report.
  • duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tacokill (531275) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:23PM (#15102864)
    Did anyone happen to consider that, since there are MORE laptops in the world, there might be more thefts?

    Correlation doesn't mean causation and all that jazz.


    (wtf - this is news now?)
  • by neurojab (15737) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:26PM (#15102879)
    >If you consider that San Francisco consists of millions of people

    While the metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area consists of millions of people (exactly how many depends on what you consider the bay area), SF itself houses only 744,230 (give or take). The most populous city in the bay area is San Jose, with 945,000.

    But your basic point is right. Oakland (another bay area city, smaller than SF at 412,318) has had over 30 murders so far this year, so 18 laptop thefts isn't exactly a crime wave.

  • Re:Comrades! (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:27PM (#15102887)
    In Soviet Russia theft equals YOU!! In Soviet Russia property equals YOU!!

    Therefore, property is theft.

    In Capitalist America jokes equal FUNNY!!

    Please bear this in mind next time.

  • 70 stolen laptops (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ChrisGilliard (913445) <christopher,gilliard&gmail,com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:32PM (#15102908) Homepage
    Just 18 laptop computer robberies were logged in 2004, but the figure jumped to 48 last year. There were 18 as of the end of March, a pace that could surpass 70 crimes this year.

    Maybe if the city would figure out a way to get the 14000 homeless people in San Francisco off the street, there would be less stolen laptops. Priorities, priorities, priorities.
  • Re:FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DerGeist (956018) on Monday April 10, 2006 @09:34PM (#15102922)
    Exactly -- this same kind of FUD came out with cell phones too, people were saying if you carry too nice of a cell phone, it'll be eyed by thugs who hang out in alleyways with various blunt metallic objects and you'll die. They'll completely ignore your Prada bag, fur coat, 5 carat diamong ring, and 24-karat gold watch.

    My point here is, like the parent poster, you need to keep your eyes open when you reveal that you have something of worth. A wifi hotspot is just a better excuse to pull out your laptop in public.

    Don't stare at the screen intently, keep your eyes out for anyone who doesn't look trustworthy. It's not that hard to spot, crimes like these are generally crimes of opportunity (in TFA it sounds organized, though, but note they still picked an easy target) Don't make yourself an easy target, stay in plain view of many people, watch your back (try to sit against a wall if possible, it makes you virtually impossible to sneak up on).

    If someone shady approaches you, prepare yourself, if they continue and you don't trust them, make a scene. Even if you look like a jerk (or even insane) you'll be alive and keep your laptop. Most importantly, do NOT take a long, dark path to your car. This is key; many times criminals will "stake out" a place for customers carrying a thick wad or valuables, then mug them on their way to their car. Under your car, behind it, and behind nearby objects are favorite hiding places.

    The number one thing criminals hate is attention. Keep in mind the thoughts of a criminal and you'll be fine:

    * Quick grab, quick escape
    * No witnesses
    * They do not necessarily want to kill you or anyone else (most criminals try not to add time voluntarily) but are most likely armed

  • Re:FUD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by walmartshopper67 (943351) <jtp0142@r i t .edu> on Monday April 10, 2006 @10:27PM (#15103172)
    You're forgetting one of the most important aspects of criminal behavior - ease. Don't be the easiest target. The other 2 conditions you mentioned are part of it, but it simple things like carrying your keys like they are brass knuckles, making a lot of noise, or just giving off an "aura" of "i'm not a victim". I'm serious, criminals don't want to get caught, so they are looking for the weakest victim, so they don't. If you look like you can run fast or have a big flashlight, they'll go elsewhere.
  • Re:That's it? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wilf_Brim (919371) on Monday April 10, 2006 @10:31PM (#15103192)
    The scary thing here is that the guy was stabbed for a friggin laptop. Rather unusual. Most thugs would much rather use intimidation and some shoving rather than lethal force. Especially for something like a laptop, only worth (to them) a few hundred bucks. And, for the /.ers in SF, if a couple of mean looking dudes attempt to take your laptop, let them. Lets do the math here: Cost of laptop: $2500. Cost of EMS run, ED treatment and stabilization, night in a monitored bed, another night on the floor: About $30,000, conservatively. If things go a little bit sideways, add a trip to the OR, a stay in the ICU, and a few more days in hospital. Cost now: about $120,000-$200,000. Let the freaking thing go. And yes, you may have health insurance. But somebody has to pay. And hopefully, you have a rider on your homeowners/renters policy for your laptop. One other funny thing. I enjoy how the guy made a point of saying that he had all his data. Yes, by God, I may have nearly bled out but but I have my favorite MP3s! Yes, we have our sense of proportion intact. Reminds me of the old joke about the yuppie who gets sideswiped getting into his BMW....
  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@nOsPAm.hotmail.com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @10:32PM (#15103195) Journal
    Same idea, but working in favor of the thieves.

    So why not concentrate a few plain-clothes cops in the same areas and tip the balance the other way?

  • by pilsner.urquell (734632) on Monday April 10, 2006 @10:47PM (#15103259)
    Never thought of that one. Another thing that is a must is identification on your machine. Anyone who has ever gone to retrieve stolen property at the local P.D. Knows that one of the thing that will be asked of you is Can you identify it. I identified mine by painting my name and DOB, A combination that is highly unique, inside the battery bay, on the mother board, hard drive and engraved into the back cover. All out of sight. In the off chance my laptop is located ether m me or the police I will need to prove it is mine.
  • Just don't buy it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by twitter (104583) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:27PM (#15103399) Homepage Journal
    One of the first things they'll typically do is fire up the browser. Then their IP is captured in my server's web log. ... those kinds of people often just aren't that smart.

    That's way too much credit. According to the article, the kind of person who's going to stab you in the chest for your laptop is going to sell it on the street for two hundred bucks. The article did not say so but they are junkies. They are not going to take the time to turn it on, much less check that it works. There are other dirtbags out there, the kind who steal textbooks and sell plasma. They won't stab you but will steal your laptop just the same.

    The only thing that will work in the long term is to not buy laptops off the street. If you see someone selling, watch out! Stay out of reach or you will be the next victim. Smile as you move away and say something like, "Wow, that's nice but I don't have enough cash right now." Do what you can to get where lots of people are fast. When you are clear, call the police. Long after people start watching these dirt bags and their dealers will still be passing stories around about making hundreds of bucks off such an easy theft. It will take a long time and many loser examples before it stops. In the mean time ... watch out.

    I'm glad my laptop is a piece of shit. It's too bad a junkie won't know any better.

    I'm going to stay away from places close to where the bums are for a while.

  • Re:Use your brain (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quacking duck (607555) on Monday April 10, 2006 @11:28PM (#15103405)
    Hate to say it, but as good as you personally are with looking out for your customers, it's only a matter of time before one self-important jackass gets his laptop stolen, and sues you (the company, not you personally) for not babysitting his laptop when he goes off for a jaunt. Common sense is as rare these days as personal responsibility.

    Then again, it's just better protection for those of us who DO practise common sense. Security by minority/obscurity does somewhat work in this case.
  • Re:FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@y a h o o . c om> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:21AM (#15103626) Journal
    Well, there is one important difference. 15 years ago, robbing a regular middle-class guy would get you maybe $30-60 in cash and a $100 watch. These days, you have every other college student or white collar employee carrying around a $400 cell phone, a $300 music player, and possibly a $1500 computer. And they're using all of this stuff in public. This makes mugging people a lot more profitable than it used to be.

    One has to wonder if muggings would be as common if, in addition to the above gear, mister average guy was also carrying a $900 pistol...
  • by dakirw (831754) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @12:35AM (#15103680)

    So why not concentrate a few plain-clothes cops in the same areas and tip the balance the other way?

    Police budgets being what they are, the cops aren't likely to be hanging out at coffee joints - there's always people screaming about how the cops have the wrong priorities. The police won't be spending much time on these "yuppie" property-type crimes unless someone dies, and then only due to the publicity.
  • Re:A MORON????? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by accelleron (790268) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:51AM (#15104041)
    It's nice to see someone taking the other side of the situation into account, but in my area, the starving muggers trying to feed starving babies are more like addicts looking to score cash for their next fix, or idiot kids looking to get their next $300 Sean John sweatsuit to wear to school. Unfortunately, the law does not make this distinction.

    Your argument is in my opinion invalid, as there are much better ways to get food for your starving baby, or your next overpriced clothing article. We are not living in an impoverished country, and jobs (not necessarily six-figure, but jobs nonetheless), government aid, and private help systems (think food drives and charity locations) are readily available.

    As for having to live for a month off of soup, please spare me. If these people were willing to work and use the resources made available to me, they could eke out a decent lifestyle legally for themselves and their families. The ones that resort to crime are in desperate circumstances (which is still not an excuse) or just too lazy to do something constructive.

    And a victimless crime? Hardly. How many people have theft insurance on their laptop? How many want to spend the extra cash on it? Not I, and not many people I know of.

    Perhaps if muggings only happened to the upper class, I would not be so concerned. Someone that makes $5,000 in a week is not going to be troubled too much to spend $3,000 on a new set of toys. Someone who had to work all summer for that one laptop or iPod (and, in my experience, students with a passion for tech like myself are much likelier targets because we have no choice but to go through dark, poorly-policed areas to get to and from school/work.)

    Granted, my perspective is biased from having been the victim of several muggings and assaults myself, but here in NYC, the most common type of mugger is in high school, listens to 50 cent, and has absolutely no legitimate means or need to dress himself in $300 sneakers to show that he is "pimp" to his classmates, which he sees about once a month in class and about thrice a day smoking weed, an activity also largely funded by this type of action.
  • Re:A MORON????? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JollyFinn (267972) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @07:05AM (#15104568)
    The unfortunate thing is that a 40 hr/wk job paying $300-$400, or waiting in line all day long or days or weeks for government aid, does not seem like something a smart person would do vs spending 5 to 30 minutes a week scoping out an easy target and make between $200 and $500 by performing a simple theft where the odds of any negative consequences are about 0. An overachiever could work 30 minutes to 2 hours a week and could come out with $2k/wk in high demand stolen goods.

    Okay here's an example of easy target. 4 feet 11 inch young girl, looks kind of hippy, but still reasonably wealthy. The mugger would be surprised with his blunt metal object, when the girl draws japanese short sword from her bag. If she for some reason doesn't happen to have that with her, she could simply break his leg with single strong kick.

    There are many people who look easy targets but most certainly are VERY deadly. An granny that has revolver in her bag who is really paranoid of muggers can be pretty dangerous target. Then the guy with black suit can be either business man, or FBI.

    Of course the skinny guy could be just a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do. Or some ex martial artist who has forgotten all the non-deadly ways of self defence. [Which happens when you practice the strikes and kicks all the time, while the other techniques less often, the result for that is forgetting the practical self defence is quick but forgetting the deadly strikes takes decades.]

    Then there is point of hitting a guy when his brothers with guns are in visible range but at the moment they just leave him alone for doing his computer stuff on the laptop that they know is important for his career, but they could care less about computers. But suddenly if someone tried to mug their brother...

    Odds of negative consequences close to zero. Hell no. I'd say do it often enough and you get the negative consequence that is enough to overcome all the benefits from all the other times. Then there is higher chance of someone taking picture of the event and giving it to police and they find the mugger. Or someone takes picture and vigilantes search you up and sink you to the bottom of the sea.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @10:17AM (#15105450) Homepage
    Apparently, somewhere else is San Francisco

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