March 5, 2008

Researchers: iPods Attract Violent Crime

Researchers at the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, claim that iPods and other portable media devices may be the cause of a noticeable "recent increase in violent crime" over the past two years, which "defies easy explanation."

In a study titled "Is There an iCrime Wave?" researchers noted a rise in violent crime which came at the tail end of a relatively long period of decline. In their report, they correlated this rise with the rising public interest in Apple's iPod in 2005 and 2006.

During a period lasting from 1993 until 2004, the violent crime rate fell each year, and added up to a decline of 38 percent, according to researchers.

It was in 2004 when Apple released a new generation of iPods and many people could be seen walking the streets while wearing the portable devices.

"By the end of 2005, more than 42.3 million units had been sold," researchers wrote, "and by the end of 2006, the total was almost 90 million."

"Thus, there was a marked increase in both the supply of potential victims and opportunities for would-be offenders."

The study lists four key reasons why the iPod has become "a lightning rod for criminals." First, the iPod has no antitheft protection. Second, the devices lack a subscription service, so criminals can continue to use the devices after a theft. Third, they note that many iPods are stolen for their status, and not to be resold. Lastly, iPod users may be less aware of their surroundings and more susceptible to a robbery.

"The important lesson is that new technology can create unexpected costs for users in the form of crime," researchers wrote.

Still, some deny that the iPod had any long lasting effect on violent crime rates.

"There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence of cell phones, iPods, GPS systems that have been targets for theft. No research can tell us those wouldn't have been substituted for other things," said Jack McDevitt, associate dean at Northeastern University's College of Criminal Justice.

"I guess I could sort of understand and buy that in a very narrow place, in a short period of time - a short spike for a few months," he said. "But to suggest that that's driving the crime numbers in any major way, I don't think so."


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