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Scott Jagow: Violent crimes are on the rise for the first time in a decade. The latest FBI statistics show an increase in robberies in particular. Hmmm. Why would that be the case?
A new report from the Urban Institute has an answer: The iPod. I’ve had mine stolen, so I’m not gonna argue with that suggestion. But let’s bring in our Economics correspondent, Chris Farrell. Chris, how do you explain this iCrime wave economically?
Chris Farrell: Well, let’s go to supply-side economics. There was a shock to this economy. There was this new
technology that came out there, and it was ubiquitous — we went to over 90 million iPods by the end of 2006. And so there was a huge opportunity increase. There was an attraction, it’s an expensive item, people walking around aren’t necessarily paying attention, and the cost of committing the crime went down. And it’s a status symbol. It’s a supply-side opportunity and the criminals took advantage of it.
Jagow: How much of a responsibility is there by the people who make these products to think about this kind of thing?
Farrell: Well, I think there is going to be increasing responsibility by the people who make these products. And I know it’s easy for me to say, ’cause I’m not making the product and I’m not absorbing those costs. But we’re moving toward a world where technology is ubiquitous. And just think about what’s gonna come next. You know, the next evolution in the credit card is really the cell phone. We’re gonna be using our cell phones as our ATM machine / credit card. So what is the responsibility of the technology makers as they realize they’re creating an expensive product that is increasingly valuable that is ubiquitous — it’s not a niche product. These are mass products. And I do think that the technology industry is gonna have to take this type of iCrime wave more seriously.
Jagow: But one thing that bothers me about this — besides, obviously, people being exposed to more crime — is that the companies wind up making more money if they’re stolen, because people go out and buy a new one.
Farrell: Ah, American capitalism’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It’s just the way the world works. But I do think that, in Britain for example, what they’re trying to do is create databases so that as the phenomenon like this happens — as you get a technology-supply shock to the system — that they can identify earlier with data what might be happening and be more proactive rather than reactive. And I would expect the same thing to be happening here. Although I do believe the technology companies have some responsibility, I think the burden is going to be on the justice departments and the police departments to create databases and respond more quickly.
Jagow: And making sure your iPod is as safe as possible, I guess.
Farrell: That’s the voice of experience there, isn’t it?
Jagow: Exactly. All right, Chris Farrell, thanks a lot.
Farrell: Thank you.
Jagow: By the way, Apple did not comment on the Urban Institute report. But the company has filed patents for technology that would render iPod useless once they change hands. In Los Angeles, I’m Scott Jagow. Thanks for listening.
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