Mobile carriers led by Verizon Wireless and AT&T announced today they have agreed to disable smartphones that are reported stolen to help stem an increase in device thefts.
The companies will begin blocking stolen devices within six months, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. today. She was joined by New York City's Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Cathy Lanier, who leads the police force in D.C.
“Carriers with the push of a button will be able to take highly prized stolen instruments and turn them into worthless pieces of plastic,” Kelly said today. “What we’re doing is drying up the market for stolen cell phones and other types of devices.”
Carriers will now go beyond deactivating SIM cards that store a user’s
account information and will deactivate the device itself, using the
phone’s unique identification number.
The companies’ actions
“will help to deter smartphone thefts and protect the personal
information on them,” Steve Largent, president of CTIA-The Wireless
Association, said in a statement.
Smartphone theft skyrocketing
As Metro has reported, theft of iPhones and smartphones is a “growing epidemic,” with more than 40 percent of all robberies in New York City involving smartphones and other wireless devices, according to the FCC.
Nationwide there has been a sharp increase in robberies of communication devices including phones, smartphones and tablet computers, often through violent attacks, the Major Cities Chiefs Association said in a Feb. 12 resolution. The group represents police chiefs in the 50 largest U.S. cities including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The chiefs association in its resolution asked the FCC to require that telecommunications companies have the capability to track and disable stolen devices.
Phones are stolen in neighborhoods, university campuses, trains and buses, Lanier said, adding that “we saw our communities being increasingly victimized and assaulted.”