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Be Smart With Your Phone: iPhone Thefts Continue To Rise In NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Smartphone theft has hit an all-time high this year in New York and officials said the problem could get even worse unless phone companies change their ways.

Samantha Lim said she was sitting with friends in a New York City restaurant when her iPhone was swiped off her table by a patron.

"No one saw a thing, it happened so fast," Lim said. "It was five inches away from my elbows at the time, and he just took it so fast, and just walked right out the door."

In New York City, the theft of iPhones, which has been dubbed "i-Crime" and "Apple Picking," is driving up crime, CBS 2 reported.

"Our crime statistics have gone up almost four percent this year," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "If in fact there were no thefts of Apple products we actually have a decrease this year."

Since the first iPhone was released in 2007, theft of Apple products in New York City has nearly tripled, CBS 2 reported.

The story is the same in other big cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

"Just about every major city across the country has the same exact crime dynamic," Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. "Those gadgets are valuable and as a result they help drive crime trend."

Officials have been trying to come up with ways to make the stealing stop.

Even if victims deactivate their phones they can easily be reprogrammed with a new SIM card and then resold. Kelly has suggested phone carriers disconnect the devices.

"Make it a useless piece of junk if it's stolen," Kelly said.

The NYPD has even launched a program that lets people register their devices, so if they are lost or stolen, they can be traced back.

The phone carriers have apparently been resisting the option to permanently disable stolen phones for years.

CBS Senior Correspondent John Miller said no company wants to be the first to change.

"It boils down to, according to people who have been in the negotiations, the carriers say if I do it first and just by myself then the other phone companies will still be making this money that I'm out, so they're trying to get them all together," Miller said.

Across the country, police are expecting another surge in thefts now that the iPhone 5 has arrived.

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