Over the past several weeks I have been providing updates to our residents on our progress in combating cell phone thefts and robberies in our community. Each time I provided an update about our efforts, members of the community would ask how they could help. Realizing the toughest part of this effort was our battle to get the cell service providers to permanently disable these stolen devices, I asked that you write letters and contact members of Congress and the FCC Chairman to encourage them to act on this important issue.
With your help we were able to bring national attention to the violence associated with the cell phone robberies and thefts. Soon thereafter, the FCC, the cell phone industry, as well as law enforcement officials from across the nation began to work on a solution to combat the robberies and thefts similar to that reached oversees. I am happy to say that today the FCC and CTIA, the association for the wireless communication industry, made public their commitment to getting this done. In just four short months we garnered the support of the Major City Chiefs Association, the Conference of Mayors, the Council of the District of Columbia, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the cell phone industry to get this done.
I wanted to take a minute to say thank you to everyone who assisted us in this effort. This initiative will make a world of difference in our efforts to improve public safety in the District.
The article below summarizes the announcement
WASHINGTON -- Officials from the Federal Communications Commission and the wireless industry joined District of Columbia officials, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Tuesday morning to announce a special agreement to combat crime involving stolen cellphones.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier were on hand for the announcement at the John A. Wilson Building.
According to the mayor's office:
[FCC Chairman Julius] Genachowski announced an industry commitment to develop a shared, centralized database that will record unique identifiers of stolen wireless devices to prevent their reuse, thereby making it harder for thieves to resell stolen wireless devices. Legislation, sponsored by Senator Schumer, will ensure that authorities have the tools they need to crack down on efforts to evade this technological solution.
According to The Washington Post:
Within six months, consumers will be able to call Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile when their device is stolen and the carriers will block the wireless phones from being used again. Some carriers already shut down voice and data service of stolen phones upon request. They will use unique identifiers to keep track of stolen phones on their network. Within 18 months, companies will combine those individual databases in an effort to contain the widespread and fast-growing trade of stolen wireless devices inside and outside the U.S.
Lanier has been outspoken on the subject of stolen cellphones, saying that if devices could be disabled after being stolen, muggings in the nation's capital and other cities would decrease. The chief has cited successful efforts in the United Kingdom to curb cellphone crime by remotely disabling stolen devices.
Lanier and other police chiefs have lobbied the FCC and cellphone service providers in recent months to take more proactive steps to discourage stolen cellphone crime.
According to the Post's Clarence Williams:
The proposal supported by Lanier and the other chiefs would involve the use of iMEi numbers, a unique registration akin to a fingerprint, to shut down service to stolen phones within days.
Last month, Lanier called out cellphone providers during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show.
"Shame on you. This is something that's fixable. It's not all about profit," Lanier said. "You know, this is a deadly situation. It needs to be rectified, and it needs to be rectified immediately.”
According to the mayor's office cellphones were taken in 54 percent more robberies in 2011 than they were in 2007. Cellphones are now taken in 38 precent of all robberies in the nation's capital.
This post has been updated to reflect updated information from Tuesday morning's official announcement at the Wilson Building