A report from the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, suggests that a recent spike in robberies can be explained by the ubiquity of iPods and other portable media devices, Ars Technica reports. The authors seek to explain a puzzling trend: After a decade of falling steadily, the rate of robberies rose strongly in 2005 and 2006, but other property crimes did not rise. The study, by John Roman and Aaron Chalfin, notes that iPods have several characteristics that make them attractive targets. They not only have a significant cash value, but they have also become status symbols, encouraging young people to steal them and keep them for their own use. Their visibly distinctive white earbuds make them easy to spot in a crowd and reduces the victim’s awareness of his surroundings. Unlike cell phones, iPods do not require a service contract and cannot be easily tracked. Most importantly, the timing seems right: iPod sales soared in 2005 and 2006, the same time period in which robbery rates increased…

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