Law Enforcers: Cellphone Industry Has Little Incentive to Stop Thefts


A new national database for stolen cellphones that tracks a phone's unique identifying number to prevent it from being activated has not helped stanch the ever-rising numbers of phone thefts, in part because many stolen phones end up overseas, out of the database's reach, and in part because the identifiers are easily modified, reports the New YorkTimes. Some law enforcement authorities say there is a bigger issue: carriers and handset makers have little incentive to fix the problem.

“The carriers are not innocent in this whole game. They are making profit off this,” said Washington, D.C., police chief Cathy Lanier. In D.C., a record 1,829 cellphones were taken in robberies last year. George Gascón, San Francisco's district attorney, says handset makers like Apple should be exploring new technologies that could help prevent theft. In March, he said, he met with an Apple executive, Michael Foulkes, who handles its government relations, to discuss how the company could improve its antitheft technology. He left the meeting with no promise that Apple was working to do so. “Unlike other types of crimes, this is a crime that could be easily fixed with a technological solution.” The cellphone market is hugely lucrative, with the sale of handsets bringing in $69 billion in the U.S. last year.

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