Major US wireless providers—Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile—are joining forces with the US government in an effort to combat phone theft. The Wall Street Journal reports the wireless companies will build and maintain a centralized database to track phones reported as lost or stolen. Phones on the list will then be denied voice and data service. Ideally, this makes the stolen phone virtually useless and drastically reduces resale value.
Carriers will start their own databases within six months. Those will then be combined into a centralized list over the following 18 months. Small regional wireless carriers are expected to join the initiative within two years. And as part of the plan, all carriers will introduce initiatives to encourage password protection among phone users.
Similar databases are already in-use in countries such as the UK, Germany, France, and Australia. Overall, these countries haven't seen crime completely stopped, but the number of incidents has lowered. In the US, electronics have recently begun surpassing cash as the most stolen property. Reports from The New York Daily News and San Francisco Chronicle last fall showed some startling statistics. In NYC, half of the city's nearly 16,000 robberies in the first 10 months of 2011 were gadget related (mostly phones). In SF, 40 cellphone muggings were reported in November alone.