by December 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,067 0

From Cody Telep. Follow him on Twitter @codywt, email him at cody[AT]


Disable your stolen phones. (Luis Gomez Photos)

DC Mayor Vincent Gray and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy Lanier announced a new initiative Monday encouraging victims to disable stolen cellular phones. The process, known as “bricking,” allows the provider to block the stolen phone from being reactivated.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been working with law enforcement and major wireless providers to use “bricking” as a way to tackle the theft and black market resale of smartphones (FCC Announces Plan with Mexico to Address Cell Phone Theft).

Gray and Lanier introduced a new DC website,, which includes information from the FCC on how to report a stolen cell phone and tips from MPD on preventing robberies and thefts.

Lanier reminded citizens to remain aware of their surroundings during the holidays and not become distracted by phones and other electronic devices. She pointed out that many robberies in the District involve the theft of cell phones. MPD also has a website with other winter holiday safety tips.

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by November 30, 2012 at 8:00 am 2,294 0

From Cody Telep. Follow him on Twitter @codywt, email him at cody[AT]

Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and Mexican Communications Under-Secretary, Hector Olavarria Tapia, signed an agreement to help address the trafficking of stolen cell phones between the United States and Mexico. Genachowski announced the agreement November 13, according to a release. (See FCC Announces Plans to Reduce Smartphone Thefts, Protect Data.)


Be careful when using your phone or portable electronic device in public. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Mexican and U.S. authorities will increase efforts to prevent stolen phones from the United States from being re-activated in Mexico and vice-versa. The FCC and Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transport will also work jointly to target international phone trafficking rings.

These efforts build on the FCC’s “PROTECTS Initiative,” which creates a database of stolen phone serial numbers to prevent the reactivation of these devices. (FCC Announces Plans to Reduce Smartphone Thefts, Protect Data). The Initiative also includes efforts to increase the use of passwords on smartphones and make consumers aware of services and applications such as the “Find my iPhone” app that can help locate and lock stolen products.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier made remarks at the announcement of the agreement. Lanier lauded the efforts of the FCC and was especially happy that the federal government worked quickly on this effort to protect consumers and reduce the number of robbery victims.

Smartphone theft has become an increasing problem in a number of major cities including DC, where Chief Lanier estimates 60 to 70 percent of robberies are cell-phone related. A video of the announcement and Lanier’s remarks are available.

CTIA-The Wireless Association announced on October 31 that all of the major cell phone providers had met the deadline of creating a database of stolen cell phone serial numbers. Currently, any phone reported stolen to AT&T, Cellcom, Nex-Tech Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless cannot be reactivated on that network’s service.

AT&T and T-Mobile have taken steps to ensure that stolen AT&T phones cannot be activated on T-Mobile and vice versa. By November 30, 2013, the database will prevent stolen phones from being reactivated on any service. CTIA also has tips and information on preventing and reporting cell phone theft.

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by April 12, 2012 at 8:00 am 2,219 0

"Borderstan" "Smartphones" "Corcoran Street NW"

How smart are you with your smartphone in public? (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Cody Telep. Follow him on Twitter @codywt, email him at cody[AT]

If you live in this part of DC, you know how many cell phones/Smartphones are stolen. Apple’s iPhone and the Droid devices are major targets for robbers.

At a press conference on Tuesday morning at the Wilson Building, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski announced new plans to  eliminate high rates of cell phone theft.

Genachowski was joined by Metropolitan Police Chief (MPD) Cathy Lanier, Mayor Vincent Gray, Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) and police leaders including New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Philadelphia Police Commissioner and former MPD Chief Charles Ramsey, and Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn.

Smartphone theft has risen steadily across the last year. According to MPD figures, cell phones were taken in 54 percent more robberies in 2011 than in 2007. Cell phones are stolen in 38 percent of all robberies citywide.

Genachowski described three new initiatives designed to make stealing cell phones less profitable and to help ensure that consumer personal data is not compromised as a result of theft (see more from CTIA-The Wireless Association and the FCC).


A database will be created to help monitor stolen phones and tablets to ensure that these items are disabled and not reactivated. The database will make use of International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, which are unique cell phone identifiers similar to Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) for cars. By October 31 of this year, each of the major wireless providers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) will participate to design a database that blocks any stolen GSM (commonly known as 3G) smartphone from being activated on any U.S. GSM network. By November 30, 2013, the database will be expanded to include LTE (commonly known as 4G) smartphones.

Under the current system, customers can deactivate the SIM card for their smartphone, but this still allows the stolen phone to be resold on the black market with a new SIM card inserted. The new database will prevent stolen phones from being used at all. Senator Schumer also announced plans to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to tamper with or alter a phone’s IMEI number.

Password to Lock Device

In order to help personal data, customers will be notified upon activating a new smartphone about setting up a password to lock the device. This notification will be put into place by April 30, 2013. By the end of this year, information on setting a phone password will be included in instruction manuals.

Public Education Campaign

The FCC and wireless companies will work together on a public education campaign to encourage consumers to take measures to avoid theft and also to download applications that can be used to locate and/or wipe clean missing phones (e.g. the Find My iPhone app). The FCC began this effort with a tip sheet released today.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, the main industry group for wireless carriers, will announce progress on these initiatives quarterly and the FCC plans to meet with major city police chiefs quarterly to discuss the success of these programs.

Victory for Chief Lanier

Today’s announcement marked a victory for Chief Lanier, as DCist noted. On March 22, she appeared on NBC’s Today Show and had a harsh message for wireless providers reluctant to prevent stolen cell phones from being reused: “Shame on you. This is something that is fixable. Why wouldn’t you in the name of customer service and safety want to protect your customer? It’s not just about profit” (see Police Chief Lanier Takes Wireless Companies to Task for Policies from March 26). These new FCC initiatives will accomplish exactly what Chief Lanier was asking the wireless companies for.

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by March 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm 2,231 1 Comment

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

The Washington Business Journal reports that D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is putting wireless companies to shame for a greedy practice impacting the safety of DC citizens. (See Lanier Joins Effort to Stem Smartphone Thefts; Tech Component Vital from February 16.)


Smartphones and portable electronic devices are targeted by robbers in street crimes. (Luis Gomez Photos)

By refusing to use technology that permanently deactivates a stolen smartphone, the industry puts profit over safety, Lanier said. The Police Chief explained how this practice, a source of revenue for wireless carriers, gives thieves continued incentive to steal smartphones.

Lanier’s comments, given Tuesday on NBC’s Today Show, come amidst a spike in smartphone robberies in the District and a Police initiative to combat the trend.

According to Dcist, “Last week, D.C. police announced the arrest of 16 people associated with 13 businesses that were peddling the stolen phones.”

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by February 16, 2012 at 11:30 am 2,090 0

"Borderstan", smarthphone thefts, smarthphone technology

It happens around Borderstan (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.

The Washington Post reported last week that DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier is joining the growing national effort by law enforcement agencies to stem the rise in mobile device theft. Police departments nationwide are urging phone manufacturers, network operators and the Federal Communications Commission to use available technology to combat thieves who are able to quickly resell stolen phones and tablet computers.

“Lanier — who says electronics-related crimes has “clobbered” her department — wants wireless companies to use existing technology to let people who report stolen phones ask their service providers to shut them down using IMEI numbers, a unique registration akin to a fingerprint,” told The Post. It’s a good read over at The Post and worth your time to check out the entire story.

If you follow our crime stories from Cody Telep, you will know that smartphone theft accounts for a big chunk of the crime in the Borderstan neighborhoods. Remember to be aware of your surroundings, don’t leave your phone on a table while at an outdoor café and avoid using your phone while on the street.

You’d have to believe that our area is a prime target for smartphone thefts. Think about it: How many people do you know with an expensive iPhone or Droid — yourself included?

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