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FORTUNE — How do you stop the growing epidemic of stolen smartphones? Lawmakers in California seem to think it’s by mandating providers to sell devices with built-in “kill switch” capabilities that would make stolen phones inoperable. This month, when the California Senate approved a bill that would require smartphone providers to build a “kill switch” feature into their devices, a key question was left unanswered: Is this the solution to smartphone theft?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a consensus among industry experts on the matter. What’s clear is that cell phone theft is a growing problem. In 2013, more than three million devices were stolen in the U.S., up from 1.6 million in 2012, according to Consumer Reports.

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