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Wireless carriers join forces to fight theft

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wireless industry, law enforcement work together
  • Database will combat use of stolen cell phones
  • Smart phone thefts have soared in some cities

Washington (CNN) -- A rise in the theft of smart phones, cell phones and tablets across the country has prompted the wireless industry to take steps aimed at minimizing the usefulness of a stolen device.

Local and federal officials and representatives from the wireless industry Tuesday announced their commitment to establishing a database to prevent the reactivation of stolen cell phones.

"Carriers now with the push of a button will be able to take highly prized stolen instruments and turn them into worthless pieces of plastic," said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "What we're doing is drying up the market for stolen cell phones."

The theft of smart phones has risen dramatically in some major cities. More than 40% of all robberies in New York City involve smart phones and other cell phones. And in Washington D.C., cell phones were taken in 54% more robberies in 2011 than in 2007, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The theft of these devices often comes during violent assaults

Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier has been at the forefront of an effort to get wireless carriers to utilize the shutdown technology.

Those efforts paid off.

The FCC said the nation's major wireless carriers will work over the next six months to create a database where consumers can enter their cell phone information. If their smart phone, cell phone or tablet is stolen, the owners would contact those who maintain the database. The device would be shut down and rendered useless.

"We're sending a message to consumers, 'We got your back,' said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "And a message to criminals that we're cracking down on the phone and tablet resale market... making smart phone theft a crime that doesn't pay."

Lanier recently criticized wireless carriers for not using anti-theft databases like some other countries do.

Tuesday, she happily took those words back.

"I have to give credit where credit is due," said Lanier. "Today I say to the cell carriers 'thank you and congratulations, and thanks for your support in helping to keep our communities safe.'"

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