WASHINGTON -- Officials from the Federal Communications Commission and the wireless industry joined District of Columbia officials, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Tuesday morning to announce a special agreement to combat crime involving stolen cellphones.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier were on hand for the announcement at the John A. Wilson Building.
According to the mayor's office:
[FCC Chairman Julius] Genachowski announced an industry commitment to develop a shared, centralized database that will record unique identifiers of stolen wireless devices to prevent their reuse, thereby making it harder for thieves to resell stolen wireless devices. Legislation, sponsored by Senator Schumer, will ensure that authorities have the tools they need to crack down on efforts to evade this technological solution.
Within six months, consumers will be able to call Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile when their device is stolen and the carriers will block the wireless phones from being used again. Some carriers already shut down voice and data service of stolen phones upon request. They will use unique identifiers to keep track of stolen phones on their network. Within 18 months, companies will combine those individual databases in an effort to contain the widespread and fast-growing trade of stolen wireless devices inside and outside the U.S.
Lanier has been outspoken on the subject of stolen cellphones, saying that if devices could be disabled after being stolen, muggings in the nation's capital and other cities would decrease. The chief has cited successful efforts in the United Kingdom to curb cellphone crime by remotely disabling stolen devices.
Lanier and other police chiefs have lobbied the FCC and cellphone service providers in recent months to take more proactive steps to discourage stolen cellphone crime.
According to the Post's Clarence Williams:
The proposal supported by Lanier and the other chiefs would involve the use of iMEi numbers, a unique registration akin to a fingerprint, to shut down service to stolen phones within days.
Last month, Lanier called out cellphone providers during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show.
"Shame on you. This is something that's fixable. It's not all about profit," Lanier said. "You know, this is a deadly situation. It needs to be rectified, and it needs to be rectified immediately.”
According to the mayor's office cellphones were taken in 54 percent more robberies in 2011 than they were in 2007. Cellphones are now taken in 38 precent of all robberies in the nation's capital.
This post has been updated to reflect updated information from Tuesday morning's official announcement at the Wilson Building.