A bill to require so-called "kill switch" technology to be installed in all smartphones sold in California was itself killed, at least temporarily, in the state Senate last week. It was a good bill that deserved a better fate.

However, if several leading wireless phone providers are to be believed, all is not lost for those who want to see such technology become standard.

Some of the major providers -- such as AT&T and Verizon -- coincidently announced plans last week to voluntarily install such a mechanism in their phones.

A cynical mind might see this as an obvious attempt to head off what appeared to be inevitable passage of Senate Bill 962 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which would have required the "kill switch" technology by the summer of next year.

But the announcement apparently gave several senators an out and allowed them to vote against the legislation, arguing that it was no longer necessary. Consequently, Leno's bill fell two votes short of a needed majority.

The "kill switch" proposal was offered as one answer to dramatic rises in smartphone thefts in many communities and it was -- and still is -- supported by many law enforcement officials. The legislation also gave consumers the right to opt-out of the technology.

While theft of smartphones has become a virtual epidemic in some communities, the thefts also have grown dramatically more brazen and dangerously violent.


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According to the Federal Communications Commission, one in three robberies nationwide in 2012 involved smartphones. Things were worse locally, two-thirds of all robberies in Oakland and more than half in San Francisco involved theft of mobile devices.

Although final numbers were not available, anecdotal evidence from law enforcement officials indicates that matters had only gotten worse in 2013.

The "kill switch" technology would allow the owner of the stolen phone to immediately shut off access to the information in the phone and would render it permanently inoperable.

To us this seems an efficient and effective solution to a serious crime problem that should have been implemented voluntarily by the carriers long ago.

As Leno pointed out, phone makers opposed voluntarily adoption of kill switch technology for two years.

He noted that the carriers and phone makers make substantial income from selling replacements to stolen smartphones as well as selling consumers insurance on such devices.

They had even refused to acknowledge having the capability to implement such technology in their devices.

But now, miraculously, the technology seems to be available. Just in time to head off the legislation. What good fortune.

Whatever it is that prompts the technology to be placed in the phones, it is time to do it. This is a public safety issue. Let's help consumers and local law enforcement by getting this done now.