Major cellphone providers have met a voluntary deadline to start preventing stolen devices from being reactivated on their networks, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It is the first step in a process police chiefs across the U.S. hope will reduce thefts and robberies. St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom warns that how rapidly the effort affects the number of cellphone thefts depends on word getting out to criminals. “There will be a lag time before people realize there is no resale value in phones,” he explained.
The number of cellphones taken during robberies is rising; in St. Louis this year, through August, it is up more than one-third compared with 2005. Reported robberies in which a cellphone was the only thing taken were up 43 percent, even though reports of purse-snatchings and thefts of unattended belongings were down about 42.5 percent from 2005. Many cellphones are swiped from tables outside of restaurants, but some have been the prize in violent crimes. Until recently, cellphone service providers could take stolen phones offline remotely, but that didn't prevent them from being reactivated by someone using a different account. It produced a booming black market in stolen phones.