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Cops: Remote Shutdowns Would Curb Phone Thefts

They want FCC, carriers to put safeguard in place
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2012 6:16 AM CST

(Newser) – With smartphone robberies soaring, frustrated police are calling for regulators and service providers to shut down stolen phones remotely to reduce their value, reports the Washington Post. About 40% of robberies in Washington in 2011 involved smartphones, iPods, or tablets, while in New York City the figure was nearly 50%. “This is a national issue,” says the DC police chief, noting that the thefts have "clobbered" her department. “We have done all we can at the local level.”

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Great Britain already has such a system in place, with each phone having a unique identification number that allows the authorities to shut it off when the owner reports it stolen. The FCC says it recognizes the "alarming" problem, but is noncommittal about the shut-down solution, while mobile carriers are opposed. “Cellphones are small and very valuable and easy to ship out of one country and resell in another that doesn’t have access to a database held by law enforcement,” says the national wireless trade group. “So the effectiveness of such programs are limited.” (Read more smartphones stories.)

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