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Give Me Your Google Glass and Nobody Gets Hurt!

In the last week, at least two people have experienced Google Glass theft. Could the wearable computer become a new favorite of thieves?
An attendee tries Google Glass during the Google I/O developer conference on May 17, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
An attendee tries Google Glass during the Google I/O developer conference on May 17, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images, file

Smartphones are enticing targets for thieves. It stands to reason that if a shiny new iPhone is attractive to crooks, Google Glass, essentially a $1,500 computer you wear on your face, should be irresistible.

Nearly one-third of all robberies in the United States over the last year involved a mobile device, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Theft and robbery cases involving Google Glass, of course, are less common, since the gadgets themselves are relatively rare. On Tuesday, sales of the device were open to the public for one day, but otherwise consumers have had to wait to be accepted into the Glass Explorer program. That doesn't mean that thieves don't want to steal the ones that are already out there.

On Monday night, a man wearing Google Glass in Venice, Calif., was robbed while sitting on his patio by two men armed with a stun gun.

"He said his life wasn't worth the Google Glass, so he threw his electronics and ran in the house,” Sam Nicolosi, the victim’s roommate, told NBC News Los Angeles.

In response, a Google spokesperson told NBC News in an email, “Theft of people's private property is all too common in today's society and should never be condoned. We are aware of this incident and are reaching out to the Explorer to see what we can do to help.”

That happened only a few days after Business Insider reporter Kyle Russell had his Google Glass stolen off his head in San Francisco during an anti-Google demonstration. Given where he was, even Russell admitted that his fashion choice “might not have been the best idea.”

Overall in San Francisco, where many Silicon Valley workers live, Google Glass theft has not been a problem, Gordon Shyy, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department, told NBC News.

But they could “potentially” be a target just like other mobile devices, which are involved in more than 50 percent of robberies in San Francisco.

Officilas like New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon have been pushing for laws that require phones to come with a “kill switch” that would let people erase their content remotely. They say such a measure would create less incentive for thieves to steal smartphones. The iPhone 5s, Apple’s top-of-the-line smartphone, regularly fetches more than $500 on eBay.

“If you’re walking around the city, and you’re holding a device, it’s like holding hundreds of dollars of cash in your hands and allowing anyone with malicious intent to come take it,” Shyy said.

As for Google Glass specifically, however, Shyy said it was “hard to say” whether criminals would be attracted to it because only one case of theft had been reported to the SFPD so far.

That could change if Google Glass becomes more mainstream. A recent deal with eyewear giant Luxottica has helped the device move away from its geeky image, and market research from global professional services firm Deloitte predicts that millions of pairs of smart glasses will be sold in 2014.

Even if Google Glass becomes more popular, smartphones might remain the more attractive target, seeing as ripping a device from someone's face is a pretty bold move compared to snatching an unattended phone, Glenn Derene, electronics editor for Consumer Reports, told NBC News in an email.

"Smartphones are easier to steal, since they are usually kept in a purse or pocket, or left on a table," he wrote.

Still, phones have one major advantage. "Conceivably, Google could develop a kill switch, but it would be hard to integrate 'find my Glass' functionality, since Glass has no integrated GPS," Derene said.