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SFPD Hails New Anti-Theft Feature For iPhone, Gascon Reserves Judgment

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Apple's Craig Federighi, Vice President of Software Engineering, introduces iOS7 at a keynote address during the 2013 Apple WWDC at the Moscone Center on June 10, 2013 in San Francisco. (Photo by Kim White/Getty Images)

Apple’s Craig Federighi, Vice President of Software Engineering, introduces iOS7 at a keynote address during the 2013 Apple WWDC at the Moscone Center on June 10, 2013 in San Francisco. (Photo by Kim White/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS / AP) — The San Francisco Police Department is hailing a decision by Apple to add a new feature making it harder to reactivate a stolen iPhone.

The feature, which has been called a “kill-switch,” will be part of the latest operating system called iOS 7, available later this year. Apple released details of the software Monday, at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference at Moscone Center.

Law enforcement officials hope other cellphone companies quickly follow suit, especially with a growing number of devices being stolen.

“Right now, iPhone thefts or cell phone thefts in general are causing about 50 percent of our robberies,” said Sgt. Dennis Toomer of the San Francisco police, who said they have been asking for help on the situation since 2007.

Ina Fried of All Things Digital detailed how the feature would work. “What this would do is when you report a phone stolen; basically it couldn’t be reactivated without the original owner’s consent,” Fried said.

Toomer said the change would be welcome.

“I know it won’t affect the prior versions of the iPhone, but hopefully people will go and get new phones or they will extend that technology to include the other phones as well,” he said.

Meanwhile, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said they aren’t judging Apple’s new activation lock feature until they can fully determine its effectiveness.

“We are appreciative of the gesture made by Apple to address smartphone theft. We reserve judgment on the activation lock feature until we can understand its actual functionality,” the prosecutors said in a joint written statement.

Apple’s announcement comes as Gascon and Schneiderman are scheduled to co-host a “Smartphone Summit” Thursday in New York City with representatives from Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Gascon and Schneiderman said they look forward to having “a substantive conversation with Apple and other manufacturers” during the summit Thursday.

Law enforcement hopes such anti-theft features will make stolen cellphones no more valuable than a brick.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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