Law enforcement officials say the problem could be easily fixed by technology, The New York Times reported Thursday.
About $69 billion in cellphones were sold in the United States last year. And when they are stolen, people have little recourse except to replace them. In San Francisco alone, nearly half of all robberies involved a cellphone.
In Washington, D.C., where a record 1,829 cellphones were stolen in 2012, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier charges carriers are "not innocent" in the rise in cellphone thefts.
"They are making profit off this," she said.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon maintains, "This is a crime that could be easily fixed with a technological solution." But in a meeting with an Apple executive in March about improving the company's anti-theft technology, Gascon said he got no promises.
Carriers object to such criticisms. Working with police departments, they have created data in which stolen cellphones can be reported and deactivated. Verizon has created its own stolen phone database.