Apple jack prevention, or How the sharing movement could stem cell phone theft in Oakland, CA

We’ve all seen the headlines about an uptick in burglaries and robberies in Oakland CA. How about going straight to the heart of the matter – where it all begins – the young people snatching smart phones. Why would they do this when there are so many other opportunities. Or, are there?!

If we don’t create some opportunities, or provide other avenues for them, it will only get worse. You will never be able to walk down the street with a smart phone, or step out of a nice car on the street. That is what you get in atmosphere of “the haves and the have-nots” as extreme as ours. These folks have been bumping up against each other in Oakland, CA for decades now. It’s just become more apparent lately, since some of us have gotten back to work quickly, following the recent financial meltdown. Others languish in poverty, chasing after food stamps and other ways to simply survive.

This huge disparity causes fear, envy, greed and resentment – along with a host of other ugly feelings – on both ends of the equation.

“Creating jobs” may be an answer, but how practical a goal is that? It’s a very complicated proposition, to say the least. The biggest job creators are small businesses, but honestly; who goes into business with the goal of creating jobs?!

My husband and I ran into this financial trouble after layoffs a number of years ago. And, we found that if you are over 40, it gets much tougher to replace that job, or start a new career (at least one that pays a living wage). So, we “got creative” with our smart phones and starting using Airbnb, TaskRabbit and a number of other apps to bring in cash. It’s THE one thing that’s allowed us to generate enough income to stay here in this City we love so much (Oakland, CA). And, as artists, musicians, grand parents, community activists and more, I like to think we make an important contribution to our social fabric.

At any rate, the suggestion/plan is simple – hand out free smartphones and wifi to residents in low income areas of Oakland, so they can do the same. As an added bonus, when we flood the market, the incentive to steal smart phones will no longer exist.) Honestly, I bet many of your readers have old smart phones (read last years model) sitting in a drawer, following their upgrades to newer models. Why not pass it on to someone who could use it?

The wifi could come from any number of places, including folks like me, who are willing to share their unlimited data plan (mine comes through of San Rafael, CA). Oh, there are also a few tech giants around, one of which is getting ready to put free wifi in San Francisco parks … why not here?

We can do this Oakland! We are a creative resilient lot, at both ends of the economic spectrum. So, rather than “cluck cluck” on your mailing list or sounding the alarms, let’s get creative and solve this problem. Americans like us are good at that, remember? (Note: If readers/others are interested in pursuing an initiative like this, feel free to reach out to or @justinetz on Twitter. Or, for the love of Oakland, please just take the idea and run with it!)




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