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Effort to stop 'Apple picking' phone theft now extends to London 

phone theft
Phones are an easy target for street theft.Nicolas Asfouri / Getty Images

Smartphones are a hot item, both in stores and on the street, as anyone who has had their device stolen can attest. A group of police and officials from New York and San Francisco is hoping to pressure the phone makers into making theft of the phones more difficult and less rewarding, and the effort has just been joined by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The "Secure Our Smartphones" program began earlier this year as a "coalition" of people in government and law enforcement who are fed up with how common — and easy — smartphone theft is. It was started by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

Someone walking down the street talking on their phone could have it nicked right out of their hand, and with a few taps the thief can make the device their own. It's a serious problem — the NYPD had to establish a task force specifically to deal with iPhone thefts.

Johnson agrees. "Cities like London, New York and San Francisco all face the same challenge," says in a press release. "And that is why London is joining the Secure Our Smartphones campaign to help find a global solution. We need the industry to take this issue seriously and come up with a technical solution that can squash the illegal smartphone market that is fueling this crime."

Software like Apple's "Find my iPhone" and Google's new "Android Device Manager" let users locate or wipe a stolen or lost phone, but that's no deterrent to the thief, who can still sell it on Craigslist for a few hundred bucks.

Secure Our Smartphones is pressuring phone makers into making such thefts more difficult to do, or if that isn't possible, then making a "kill switch" that permanently nukes the phone, preventing thieves from profiting by stealing it, and deterring them from attempting the crime in the first place.

Whether it will stimulate manufacturers and software developers who create smartphones remains to be seen, but a program like this could at least help raise awareness of this pervasive category of crime.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is