State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and other lawmakers said they plan to introduce such legislation with the support of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck. L.A. had a 12% increase in mobile-device thefts in 2012, said the LA Times.
The theft of such devices now accounts for nearly one-third of robberies in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon said more than half the robberies in his city involve theft of mobile devices, said the LA Times. He said the industry has debated the use of deterrent technology for too long. "The wireless industry must take action to end the victimization of its customers," he said in a statement.
Leno said he would propose that all new smartphones and tablets sold in California starting Jan. 1, 2015, have a kill switch or other protective feature, said the LA Times. Such features come in multiple forms, including one that customers ask their phone companies to trigger. Another requires anyone who wants to re-register the phone to provide the original user name and password.
A kill switch would eliminate the value of stolen devices on the black market, according to Leno.
Industry officials say they are already starting to offer safety measures, said the LA Times. "In general, we agree that it's smart to try to engage technology to improve public safety," said John Doherty, a vice president of the industry group TechNet, whose members include many firms that would be affected by a new regulation. But we are going to be very cautious about attempts to legislatively mandate future technology in products," Doherty added. "That impacts consumer price. That impacts innovation. And there are always unintended consequences."