ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota enacted the nation's first law Wednesday requiring smartphones and tablets sold in the state to have a remote shut-off feature as a way to deter theft.
The "kill switch" bill was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton after lawmakers passed it last week. The measure takes full effect in July 2015, but advocates are hoping the wireless industry will make technology updates sooner.
Democratic Rep. Joe Atkins describes the law as "a vaccine" for the epidemic of smartphone theft and robberies tied to mobile devices. People who report a kill switch-equipped phone lost or stolen can disable it and wipe the data slate clean by contacting their carrier.
"Thus taking away the worth," explained Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights. "When you take away the worth, you take away the incentive. These thieves that are stealing these things no longer have the incentive to steal 'em."
Both Dayton and Atkins say it's the first such law in the nation, and the industry group CTIA-The Wireless Association confirmed it. Similar bills are on the march in California, New York and Illinois. Federal legislation also is pending.
At the University of Minnesota, a spate of violent robberies last fall spurred school officials to urge lawmakers to act fast. University Police Chief Greg Hestness said he hopes the law will add a sense of security on campus.
"The loss of property is very regrettable," he said, "but it really is about the safety of our students."
Federal statistics suggest as many in one in three robberies around the country involve a phone theft.