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NY Daily News declares iPod Public Enemy #1

The NY Daily News is a sober organ, not given to rank hyperbole or overstatement like that other NYC tabloid pictured here, with my all-time favorite headline. (I'm kidding -- the News still has its moments, even if the Post is by far the nuttier paper.) That said, it's troubling to find a note of hysteria in two stories today about the violent side of iPod ownership.

New York City was the scene of the tragic 2005 murder of a Brooklyn teenager in an iPod robbery, but since then the NYPD and transit officials have begun to crack down on iPod theft and it seemed that matters were improving. Not so, says the News. "New FBI stats indicate the teenage obsession with [iPods] has triggered a jump in robberies, including some resulting in murder," reads the story, headlined "Apple's iPod blamed for nationwide crime rise." That's not incendiary at all!What we learn next is that it's not the FBI saying that iPods lead to crime; it's two researchers at the Urban Institute, analyzing the FBI's data that shows a rise in robberies (theft + violence or intimidation) compared to a decline in overall thefts since 2005 (when, say the authors of the study, the iPod began to hit the mass market in volume). More from the article: "A telltale sign that iPods... are at the root of the troubling trend is that juvenile robbery arrests climbed 18% last year after a 44% decline during the previous decade... 'People carry less cash now because of check cards and the big jewelry fad has faded," [the researcher] said. "[IPods] are the only explanation of why this crime spike is happening now."

You can read more from the Urban Institute report at their website; for a gimlet-eyed look at the overall FBI numbers, head over to the Freakonomics blog. The UI report is somewhat more reserved than the News (surprise!) and it acknowledges that the hypothesis of an iCrime-wave is based on anecdotal evidence and not on strong, causal statistical evidence. Still, it points a firm finger in the direction of the iPod and suggests that some simple changes, from situational awareness to iPod-tracking capabilities, could reduce the level of iPod crime. At least they aren't calling for an outright ban or installing spyware and calling it theft prevention.

Meanwhile, on Staten Island, the News is reporting that "iMom" was not about to let the theft of her son's iPod go unchallenged. Davida Montano is charged with assault after attacking the thief, apparently stabbing him with the shards of his own glasses (believe me, Staten Island is a tough place to be a geek). The 19-year old thief apparently robbed Montano's son of his iPod, videogame consoles and an $80 sweater, but of course we know what gets the headline.

What's your iPod crime theory? Are they the Air Jordans of the new millennium, or a shortcut for lazy headline writers?

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