The iPod’s white earbuds have become a trademark of Apple’s line of MP3 players. Beyond defying the black-headphone norm, they have been a staple in the company’s ads, which show black silhouettes dancing against neon backgrounds with the contrasting simple, white lines of the iPod and its earpieces.
It’s easy to notice — making it an easy target for potential thieves.
That’s why the Urban Institute decided to compare the increased popularity of iPods and other portable media devices to the rise in violent crime over the past few years. The organization’s study found that the iPod is the leading brand of music player involved in crimes.
The report states that during the study, overall theft declined by 6 percent and auto theft by 5 percent, but robberies increased by 9 percent. The study notes that in 2005 — as MP3 players became increasingly popular — violent crime increased for the first time in 12 years.
Though MP3 player robberies and iPod-related incidents — known as iCrimes — may be a growing concern across the United States, these types of crimes have not been a significant issue at USF.
University Police spokesman Mike Klingebiel said it is difficult to determine whether MP3 players had any involvement in the crimes that do take placeon campus. UP receives a variety of missing items, but they tend to be car keys, bicycles and wallets.
More devices are usually turned in than claimed at Marshall Student Center’s (MSC) lost and found, said Menna Yassin, a sophomore who works at the MSC front desk.
“Usually you have more people turning in keys, wallets, cell phones and textbooks,” she said. “But if it’s really valuable — like an iPod touch — then it goes to UP,” she said.
Yassin said she’s only heard of an iPod being turned in once.
Economics professor Joseph DeSalvo said he was not aware of iPod-related thefts.
“I don’t know if there is really an iCrime wave because I haven’t seen a time series of data on iCrime,” he said. “It may simply be that data on thefts of electronic products such as iPods simply reflect the newness of the products themselves.”
He compared iCrime to car thefts over the years. Essentially, he said, auto thefts in the 1800s were not an issue because there weren’t any automobiles — but horse thefts were prevalent.
“When auto ownership became widespread, there was a jump in auto thefts, while horse thefts fell,” DeSalvo said.
Though iPods are common — Apple reports sales of more than 100 million since April 2007 — not everyone is a fan of them, or of MP3 players in general. Junior Zachary Metzger said that unlike many USF students, he finds iPods distracting and not attractive.
“iPods alienated me from my environment,” Mertzger said.
Listeners’ feeling of being disconnected from the world could be a factor in iCrime, however. The study also points out that iPods can be an obvious target for thieves.
The distinctiveness of the product has helped Apple become the leading seller of MP3 players, but it may also have an unintended side effect — it’s easy to notice that a person is carrying a digital device that can cost upwards of $300, and it lets potential thieves know that their target is distracted.
“When more potential targets are available to a potential offender, the costs of committing a crime decrease, since it becomes easier for a motivated offender to find a suitable target,” the report states.
The recession may make iPod-related crimes — particularly thefts — even more painful for victims, DeSalvo said. If an item like an iPod is stolen, it could be more difficult for people to replace it.
DeSalvo also said the recession causes people to reduce spending for most goods and services because incomes and assets fall. This makes it more difficult for people to buy expensive items such as iPods — especially students.
“This reduction in their wealth also causes a reduction in expenditures,” DeSalvo said.
Bashir Harrell, a senior majoring in business, said he would not buy another music device if his was stolen.
“I would report it to the campus police, but otherwise I would not worry too much,” he said.
Unlike Harrell, Jun Fujimoto, a junior majoring in English, said he wouldn’t take any action to retrieve a stolen or lost iPod.
“I would not do anything if it was stolen, because it is my fault and because there’s a low possibility of finding it again,” he said.
If students believe they’ve been robbed, Klingebiel said he recommends that they first check the location where they lost
“Contact the building where it was stolen, then contact the Marshall Student Center, then contact (UP),” he said.