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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

5/3/2013 (11 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Majority of stolen cell phones resold overseas

It may have already happened to you. You're using your expensive Smartphone when a shady figure runs up to you and snatches it out of your hand on a busy city sidewalk. You go to the police, and say your cell phone has been stolen. The police will tell you that there is nothing that they can do for you. Furthermore, the cell phone industry is indifferent to make features that discourage theft. Why is that?

Carriers and handset makers, law enforcement figures say, have little incentive to fix the problem of cell phone theft.

Carriers and handset makers, law enforcement figures say, have little incentive to fix the problem of cell phone theft.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/3/2013 (11 months ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Cell phones, Smartphones, theft, identifying marks, law enforcement, manufacturers, database


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The victim of cell phone theft can record their loss in a new nationwide database for stolen cell phones, which tracks a phone's unique identifying number to prevent it from being activated, theoretically discouraging thefts.

Authorities say the database hasn't made a dent in the ever-rising numbers of phone thefts as many stolen phones end up overseas - hence out of the database's reach. The identifiers are also easily modified.

Carriers and handset makers, law enforcement figures say, have little incentive to fix the problem.

"The carriers are not innocent in this whole game. They are making profit off this," Cathy L. Lanier, chief of the police department of the District of Columbia says. In her area, a record 1,829 cell phones were taken in robberies last year.

Some figures have risen to the occasion to suggest pro-active solutions to manufacturers. San Francisco's District Attorney George Gascón says handset makers like Apple should be exploring new technologies that could help prevent theft.

Gascón said in March that he met with an Apple executive, Michael Foulkes, who handles its government relations, to discuss how the company could improve its antitheft technology. But he left the meeting, he said, with no promise that Apple was working to do so.

He added, "Unlike other types of crimes, this is a crime that could be easily fixed with a technological solution." Apple declined to comment.

Thefts of Smartphone's keep increasing -- and victims just keep replacing them. In San Francisco last year, nearly half of all robberies involved a cell phone, up from 36 percent the year before; in Washington, cell phones were taken in 42 percent of robberies, a record. In New York, theft of iPhones and iPads last year accounted for 14 percent of all crimes.

The resale market for stolen phones in San Francisco is booming, with a new iPhone netting a thief $400 to $500 in cash. The starting price of a new iPhone 5, without a contract, is $650.

Some compare the epidemic of phone theft to car theft, which was a rampant problem more than a decade ago until auto manufacturers improved antitheft technology.

"If you look at auto theft, it has really plummeted in this country because technology has advanced so much and the manufacturers recognize the importance of it," Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum says. "The cell phone industry has for the most part been in denial. For whatever reasons, it has been slow to move."

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