In 2011, 42 percent of all property crimes committed against individuals in New York City involved the theft of a cell phone. Cell phone theft may seem like a fairly minor crime in the grand scheme of things, unless it’s your phone, and then it’s the worst thing ever.
It’s also a crime that can be reduced through technological means, once the major carriers decide to put away their differences and do something sensible. And–mirabile dictu–they’ve done just that. AT&T, Verizon, Mobile, and Sprint have come together to begin sketching out plans for a central database for stolen phones. When it’s done, any phone reported as stolen will be unusable in America.
Right now, most phones use SIM cards that are easy to swap out, thus allowing stolen phones to be resold. In the new plan, each phone will be assigned a unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number; a technique that’s working well in Europe. At the same time, Sen. Chuck Schumer is introducing legislation to make altering IMEI numbers a felony.