WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — D.C. police officials are reporting a worrying spike in the number of robberies and thefts so far this year, especially of handheld devices.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a news conference Friday that she is encouraging cellphone service providers to immediately discontinue service after a cell phone is reported stolen. That could remove financial incentive for thieves who quickly turn around and sell the stolen phones on the street or online.

She calls the uptick in thefts a “national problem” and says she and other chiefs are trying to work with the wireless service industry and the Federal Communications Commission.

D.C. police have recorded 476 robberies this year as of Friday morning, and about 40 percent involved the theft of a cell phone, iPod or tablet.

An 11-year-old girl in northwest was among the recent victims of cell phone thefts. A suspect brazenly snatched the phone out of her hand as she was speaking with her friends following school. He fled the scene on foot.

The spike in thefts comes at time when the homicide rate in the district is at its lowest in years.


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