As the theft of digital devices continues to increase in New York City, the city's police department has been ramping up Operation ID, its program where New Yorkers can register their smartphones and other electronics in case they are lost or stolen.
The NYPD registered about 31,000 devices since the iPhone 5 was released 12 months ago, a significant increase from earlier years. The average number registered per year between 2010 and 2012 was 7,000.
But in a city with 8.3 million people, tens of thousands is a drop in the bucket. Few of the stolen electronic devices officers seize each day during police work are in the Operation ID database.
"There's been a handful of success stories," said Inspector James Klein, a commanding officer in charge of crime prevention. "Not as much as I'd like."
The NYPD promotes Operation ID at events around the five boroughs, on Twitter and Facebook and on its website.
The department plans a big push this Friday, Saturday and Sunday tied to the release of the new iPhone 5s and 5c. Officers from the Community Affairs Bureau will be posted at six Apple stores, four Best Buys and an AT&T store to drum up interest in the program.
But don't expect those officers to help you log into a secure website to sign up: New Yorkers who want to register their devices must fill out a paper form at an event or a police precinct.
The irony that people cannot use an electronic device to register one is not lost on Inspector Klein, who says he wants to bring the program online.
"I'd like to see it where people can just go on the website and register their property," he said.
After all, digital device theft isn't going away. As of late August, more than 11,000 smartphones had been reported stolen to the NYPD, a seven percent increase from the same period in 2012.
Thieves increasingly have their eyes on Macbooks, iPads and iPods. As of mid-September, more than 20,300 Apple devices were reported stolen compared to about 18,500 during the same period in 2012, a 10 percent increase.
Fortunately for New Yorkers, all electronics are eligible for Operation ID, even fax machines and desktop computers.
And if registering a device's serial number with police still leaves you feeling vulnerable, the NYPD will even engrave a separate unique ID starting with the letter N-Y-C onto any device.