Smartphone robberies on the rise

Feb. 11, 2012 at 4:42 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Across the country, U.S. police chiefs say there is a climb in smartphone robbery, which could be combatted if wireless providers could shut them down remotely.

After the implementation of several failed plans to mitigate cellphone robberies, police are voicing their frustration to lawmakers and wireless providers. They've offered cash rewards, coordinated sting operations on public transport and even busted metro employees for the thefts, all of which has done little to keep the number of thefts from rising.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told The Washington Post her department has been "clobbered" by electronics related crimes. She said she wants wireless providers to allow users to report stolen devices so they can be shut down remotely. A similar system is already in use in the United Kingdom.

"It's a simple way to alleviate it," she said. "Why would [mobile companies] not want to do it?"

Police say such a system could cause the street value of a stolen phone to plummet, discouraging the thefts. However, they have also uncovered organized criminal operations that ship phones abroad to be dismantled for parts, the Post said.

Amy Storey, spokeswoman for the national wireless trade group CTIA says it isn't that easy. "This isn't the solution, because when you look at other countries that have tried this, it didn't work," she said.

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