MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sen. Amy Klobuchar chose to hold her news conference call Tuesday on phone companies, saying they should put a kill switch in all cell phones at the University of Minnesota.

Klobuchar said the switch would lead to a decrease in cell phone thefts.

U of M Police say cell phone thefts have been a factor in almost all of the 25 robberies in and around campus this fall and winter.

At the news conference, the senator had a lot of support, but it’s also clear there is some pretty big opposition to her efforts.

In support of the kill switch and those who were in attendance at the news conference were top law enforcement officers, as well as students who say the senator’s proposal is needed to help stop these thefts.

Nationally, one-in-three robberies involve a cell phone. Stolen phones are then often shipped overseas and sold for as much as $400. Klobuchar said a kill switch would render the stolen cell phone useless, therefore lessening its value and its attractiveness to thieves.

“This is a new type of theft that has been mounting over the years and it’s in direct response to the value of these cell phones,” Sen. Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar was surrounded by top local law enforcement officers including Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau.

“To have an impact on public safety, this has to be a collaborative effort and we need the cell phone companies to be at the table,” she said.

Also at the news conference were student leaders. One student group has even started an online Facebook petition in favor of the senator’s proposal.

“I think it is the first logical step to limiting crime on campus, eliminating that incentive to steal, if we devalue that cell phone,” Jon Melgaard said.

But cell phone companies as a whole have voiced opposition. Industry critics say that opposition is profit motivated — rising cell phone thefts have led to an increase in consumers purchasing cell phone insurance.

Cell phone companies also warn that hackers could infiltrate kill switch technology and turn off phones across the country.

In addition to the senator’s bill, a Minnesota state representative is proposing a similar bill at the state level that would require all cell phone companies sold in Minnesota to have a kill switch and if they don’t, the companies would have to provide insurance free of charge.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the U of M President Eric Kaler wrote a letter to the Sen. Klobuchar stating his support of her bill. President Kaler writes in his opinion, the kill switch could result in cell phones becoming less attractive to thieves.

Esme Murphy

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