Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reducing Cell Phone Theft By Eliminating The Market For Stolen Devices

The New York Times had a report on an effort by the Federal Communications Commission, police agencies and the cell phone industry to create a central database of stolen cell phones to prevent the devices from being activated. This would in essence make stolen devices worthless on the black market. 
“It’s just too easy for a thief to steal a phone and sell it on the black market,” Mr. Genachowski said. “This program will make it a lot harder to do that. And the police departments we are working with tell us that it will significantly deter this kind of theft.”

Over the last year, roughly one out of three robberies nationwide have involved the theft of a cellphone, according to an F.C.C. summary of the new plan. The thefts have grown most rapidly in urban areas; cellphones are stolen in more than 40 percent of all robberies in New York City and 38 percent of robberies in the District of Columbia, according to the groups.

“Our goal is to make a stolen cellphone as worthless as an empty wallet,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who plans to introduce legislation to criminalize tampering with a phone’s unique identifier.
I think this is a great idea. By reducing the value that stolen smartphones have, the motivation to steal them goes down as the cost/benefit ratio swings out of the crook's favor. In fact, for those of you old enough to remember when cell phones were introduced, the cell phone industry touted this type of thing all those years ago.

The excellent book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers includes a chapter on this type of thing in chapter 41 Reduce The Rewards of Theft. Anything you can do to increase the effort it takes for a thief to commit their crime or to reduce the benefit they receive is a good thing.

What other ways can you alter the crime cost/benefit ratio out of the crook's favor?

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