The popularity of the iPod has been linked to the recent increase of violent crime in the US.
The nonpartisan Urban Institute contends that the rise in violent crime and the explosion in the sales of iPods and other portable media devices is “more than coincidental”. It says that over the past two years America may have experienced, what it tags, an “iCrime” wave.
Violent crime in the US increased in 2005 and 2006 for the first time in 14 years. Homicides and robberies were up, while other violent crimes, such as rapes and aggravated assaults and all types of property crime, were down.
While the Urban Institute does point out that any type of portable media devices can increase the supply of criminal opportunities, it singled out the iPod because it is the leading brand. By the end of 2006 around 90 million iPods had been sold.
“At the same time that violent crime rates began to rise, America’s streets filled with millions of people visibly wearing, and being distracted by, expensive electronic gear,” explained the authors of the Is there an iCrime wave? report, John Roman and Aarom Chalfin.
“Thus, there was a marked increase in both the supply of potential victims and opportunities for would-be offenders.”
According to Roman and Chalfin, there are four reasons why iPods are thought to be criminogenic (crime creating):
- iPods contain almost no easily accessible anti-theft protection
- Unlike mobile phones, there is no subscription associated with iPods
- iPods are high-status items and may be stolen for their status, not as items to be resold
- Since iPods transmit sound to both ears, rather than just one in the case of cell phones,
iPod users may be less aware of their surroundings than users of other consumer products (so they’re easier to rob).
Interestingly, Roman and Chalfin point out that past crime waves are thought to have also been triggered by the introduction of a new high-status and expensive product.
“For instance, in the 1980s and 1990s, the proliferation of such valuable products as expensive basketball shoes or North Face jackets may have led to new crimes,” they said.
“However, in past instances where the supply of crime creating products increased, the consumer population purchasing these goods—and the would-be offenders coveting those products—made up a relatively small part of the US population. By contrast, iPods are everywhere, and, unlike a jacket or a sneaker, one size fits all.”
The good news is that as iPods continue to become common place, Roman and Chalfin predict that the iCrime wave will wane, as “many of those who covet one likely already have one”. The bad news, is that “as technology races ahead, we should expect to see more iCrime-like waves”.