WASHINGTON (AP) — Victims of cellphone theft can now contact their wireless carriers and have their devices remotely disabled before they’re able to be resold on the black market, District of Columbia officials said Monday.
Police hope to deter would-be thieves by taking the value out of phones and rendering them useless for resale. Phones that are reported stolen would be permanently deactivated, or “bricked,” police said. The carriers are promising it to all users, including in the nation’s capital.
“If your phone is stolen, you can either call your carrier or you can go online to be able to get, essentially, the phone disabled,” said Mayor Vincent Gray, who announced the initiative along with Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
The initiative follows the announcement last April that major wireless carriers had agreed to disconnect stolen cellphones by developing centralized databases that will record unique identifying numbers of devices. Those databases are expected to be consolidated, across carriers, sometime next year, said the chief, who eight months ago announced the wireless industry partnership with police chiefs from New York and Philadelphia.
“We saw that all across the United States, every city was having the same problem, so everybody was frustrated,” Lanier said Monday. “So I’d say yes, everybody is concentrating on trying to safeguard people’s property when it comes to these electronic devices. This is not the end of the battle by any means.”
D.C. officials also unveiled a website, offering offers robbery and pick-pocket prevention tips as well as a link to a Federal Communications Commission site that lists the phone numbers of major carriers.
In addition, Lanier said more than 80 additional officers would be patrolling major shopping areas across the city during the holiday season. Some officers will be out in plainclothes, she said.
“It’s also the time of year when bad guys are out shopping,” she said.
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