Police departments, lawmakers, and wireless companies are scrambling to tackle a crime wave veteran cops call "the new purse-snatching," the AP reports. Cell phone thefts, especially of the priciest smartphones, are soaring nationwide and now make up close to half of all robberies in cities including New York and San Francisco. In Los Angeles, cell phone thefts are up 27% from a year ago and in Oakland, city council candidate Dan Kalb became one of the city's estimated 1,300 victims so far this year—after an anti-crime meeting.
The Federal Communications Commission and major wireless carriers plan to set up a national database next year to track stolen phones. Carriers are also planning databases to permanently disable cell phones reported stolen. "We want to dry up the aftermarket," an official at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association advocacy group says. "Hopefully, there will be no sense in stealing a phone and a once valuable piece of hardware will essentially turn into useless metal." (Read more theft stories.)