Can America’s iCrime wave be halted? Well iDon’t see why not
Ever since Elvis shook his pelvis on TV, popular music has been held responsible for a number of society’s ills, from “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?” to the beach fights between Mods and Teds, to any amount of moral panics about sex and drugs and general “bad” behaviour.
Heavy metal music was supposed to contain hidden satanic messages, Marilyn Manson is the “antichrist” and Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty are regularly cited as being somehow responsible for “glamorising” drug usage.
The latest moral panic about music is very much of its time: studies have shown that crime figures have been declining in the US every year since 1991. In 2005 and 2006 though, the numbers increased.
Criminologists struggled to understand the trend-bucking figures but eventually settled on a new phenomenon which they labelled “iCrime” – the widespread theft of iPods.
“We propose that the rise in violent offending and the explosion in the sales of iPods and other portable media devices is more than coincidental,” say the Urban Institute (the group behind the study).
“We propose that America is experiencing an iCrime wave.” The study also reports that the rates for robberies by juveniles increased during the same time – further evidence, it seems, that the iPod is to blame.
The report labels iPods as “criminogenic” (responsible for creating crime). Criminologists have previously argued that crime occurs when three things come together: a motivated offender encounters a suitable victim and perceives a high chance of getting away with it. All three factors converge in “iCrime”.
Offenders are motivated because iPods are seen as desirable items and aren’t cheap; the victim is suitable because he/she is distracted listening to music. And the crime is relatively easy to get away with because iPods cannot be traced/cancelled.
In some desperate cases, people have been seriously injured – and even killed – in iPod robbery cases. All concerned feel that if iPods could in some way be protected against unauthorised use after being stolen, there would be little or no motivation to steal them. Paranoid people have been known to replace the iPod’s white earphones with standard black ones so they aren’t giving out a visible “I have an iPod” message.
While Apple declined to comment on the Urban Institute study, it is known that back in 2005 (when iPods were going mainstream); they did file a patent under the title “Protecting electronic devices from extended unauthorised use”. The patent is for a way to “brick” (make useless) an iPod in much the same way that mobile phones can now be “locked”.
Apple are apparently working on a way to “pair” an iPod to a specific charger. Already, and much to people’s annoyance, the iPod is paired with a certain version of iTunes, but this new technology they are working on would detect when a user tries to operate the iPod on an unauthorised machine and would refuse to charge – rendering the iPod useless.
The patent reads “Every portable gadget with a rechargeable battery has a charging circuit that recognises when the external mains charger has been plugged in. It then manages the transfer of current to the battery. Apple’s patent suggests that by attaching a ‘guardian circuit’ to the charging circuit, it would be possible to block the charging process.
When a device is plugged into an unauthorised computer, software would compare a security code in the device to a code buried in the software in the computer. If the codes do not match, then the guardian circuit could be triggered to prevent any further charging.”
You would have to wonder though about the priorities at play here: every few months, it seems, Apple unveils some flashy new hi-tech gizmo – whether it be the iTouch or the iPhone. You would think that a simple blocking of an iPod couldn’t be beyond the reach of Apple’s design boffins. But, astonishingly, it is. firstname.lastname@example.org
Slim picking: ‘criminogenic’ iPod