Tuesday, April 10, 2012

National Database Planned to Combat Cellphone Theft - NYTimes.com

National Database Planned to Combat Cellphone Theft
Published: April 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — The soaring popularity of smartphones has produced an unwelcome, if predictable, side effect: an epidemic of smartphone thefts.

Now, police departments, the Federal Communications Commission and the wireless phone industry have devised a plan to fight back: the creation of a central database to track stolen phones and prevent them from being used again.

On Tuesday, Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the F.C.C., is scheduled to join police chiefs from New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland and representatives of a wireless industry trade group to announce the new plan, which will allow wireless providers to disable and block further use of a device once it is reported stolen.

The groups are also working with members of Congress to write legislation that would make it a federal crime to tamper with a phone’s unique identifiers in an attempt to evade the blocking process.

“It’s just too easy for a thief to steal a phone and sell it on the black market,” Mr. Genachowski said. “This program will make it a lot harder to do that. And the police departments we are working with tell us that it will significantly deter this kind of theft.”

Over the last year, roughly one out of three robberies nationwide have involved the theft of a cellphone, according to an F.C.C. summary of the new plan. The thefts have grown most rapidly in urban areas; cellphones are stolen in more than 40 percent of all robberies in New York City and 38 percent of robberies in the District of Columbia, according to the groups.

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National Database Planned to Combat Cellphone Theft - NYTimes.com

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