Police hope Apple’s latest iOS will reduce crime in 14th District

 14th Police District Captain John Fleming. (Jana Shea/for NewsWorks)

14th Police District Captain John Fleming. (Jana Shea/for NewsWorks)

Apple’s upcoming mobile operating system, iOS 7, has a security feature which particularly pleases 14th Police District Captain John Fleming.

It’s a type of kill-switch called Activation Lock, which will require an Apple ID and password in order to turn off the device’s “Find My iPhone” tracking feature or to erase any user data and reactivate the phone.

“I think it will effect, in time, [the number of] robberies going down,” Fleming told attendees at the East Mt. Airy Neighbors’ (EMAN) annual meeting Tuesday evening. The neighborhood’s new police captain was the event’s guest speaker.

Fleming says he anticipates that other mobile phone companies will need to quickly follow Apple’s lead.

Cellphone thefts have skyrocketed, accounting for more than 90 percent of robberies in the 14th District over the past two months, he said.

iPhones have been particularly targeted.

Savvy theives just turn off the “Find My iPhone” location tracking. Police so far have had to count on a criminal’s laziness to be able to make an arrest, Fleming explained.

The only way to surmount the growing problem is to take away the profit motivation, said Fleming. Thieves sell the stolen phones in open air markets, fence them through unscrupulous mobile phone suppliers along Germantown Avenue or trade them in for cash at self-service kiosks, called ecoATMs, such as the one at nearby Cheltenham Square Mall.

Having a means to reduce the resale value of stolen cell phones should prove to be an effective theft deterrent, though Fleming says he anticipates it will take six months to a year to see a significant reduction in robberies. iOS7 is set to be released in the fall.

Burglaries down, violent crime up

Fleming says he came into 14th District eager to make difference in residential burglaries.

The district has a decades-long history of being plagued with burglaries and is considered one of the top three in the city renown as “Burglary Districts” by police, he shared.

“It’s almost an accepted level of property crime,” Fleming said.

Halfway through the year, he says things are going in right direction

Mt. Airy residents would like to see the return of bicycle police in the neighborhood to help combat crime. Fleming says the bicycle patrols had been returned to Mt. Airy’s commercial corridor for a dedicated 60-day period, but a “horrible April” of gun violence caused him to redeploy those officers.

Fleming told EMAN members that the days of having bike patrols in one area are over because there are only around 15 bike cops for the entire 14th district. The captain says he positions bike patrols where necessary, with the exception of Chelten Avenue at the intersections of Germantown and Chew avenues where police presence is deemed critical.

Other news

Reverend Chester H. Williams, president and founder of the Chew and Belfield Neighbors Club, was presented with EMAN’s 2013 Edgar A. Baker Community Service award for his decades of commitment to improving the neighborhood.

“He is a one man army,” remarked EMAN board member, Derek Green.

EMAN Community Living board Chair, Bill Ewing was awarded EMAN’s first ever Lou Incognito Community Engagement award in recognition for his efforts in taking the helm of a troubled organization. EMAN Community Living liquidated its assets and is in the process of transitioning into a million dollar donor-advised fund for the community. Its board recently approved to provide $10,000 annually to EMAN for operational expenses.

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