Madigan joins call for 'kill switch' to thwart smartphone theft

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has joined the call for technology, including a "kill switch" to disable smartphones and deter rampant theft of the devices.

A coalition of state and city officials are addressing a perceived unwillingness by cellphone carriers and handset makers to technology to combat the problem.

The group, which includes Madigan, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, will analyze patterns behind the thefts and work with Apple Inc. and other smartphone makers to create "kill switches" that would render devices inoperable if they are stolen.

Cellphone theft has become an increasingly violent problem, according to law enforcement authorities. About half of San Francisco's robberies last year, for instance, involved stolen mobile devices, according to Gascon. One study found that lost and stolen cellphones cost consumers $30 billion last year.

"This nationwide coalition of leaders is committed to doing everything in our power to encourage industry to be good corporate citizens and take responsible steps to ensure the safety of our consumers," Schneiderman said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

Aside from Illinois, New York and San Francisco, the coalition includes attorneys general from  Massachusetts, Delaware, Minnesota, Connecticut, Nebraska and Hawaii, and district attorneys, police and other officials from cities including Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago.

Amid pressure from authorities, Apple announced on Monday that it would add an "activation lock" in its new mobile software.

The new feature, available with the launch of i0S 7 this fall, will require a legitimate owner's ID and password before an iPhone can be wiped clean or re-activated after being remotely erased.