Police in Toronto are pushing Canada’s cell phone carriers to do more to protect customers who have their devices stolen.
The problem is that no unified database of devices exists, which means that thieves can potentially access any of the data left on a phone. According to police, the answer is for cell phone carriers to have a shutdown system in place that allows them to close out a phone when it is reported stolen. This would reduce criminal incentive and theoretically lead to less theft.
Toronto police report that cell phone theft has grown over the last three years, doubling to 1,800 cases of cell phone theft in T-Dot last year. Police add that those cases don’t include robberies, only zeroing in on cases where cell phone owners were approached and “physically accosted” for their devices.
“Our goal is to get the carriers, the providers, the cellphone companies to come on board with us, to be able to disable stolen phones in the future,” said Superintendent Ron Taverner.
The United States’ cell phone carriers are in the process of creating a national database system that should give carriers the capability to shut down phones when they are stolen, so the technology is in the wind and its implementation is possible. The trouble is that Canadian carriers are suggesting that such a system would be “costly” and “complex” to put into play in the Great White North. Why am I not surprised?
For now, police in Toronto encourage users to register their phones as a part of a project in 23 Division. Police record key identification numbers from respective devices and invisible markings are put on the phones that can identify it if stolen. Shutting the phone down, however, requires the cooperation of the carriers and the implementation of a broader system.
Carriers can also apparently block a phone, but information is given out to “rival” companies and the phone can essentially be activated on another network.
Obviously rendering a cell phone unusable would make it a less desirable object of theft. With the silly thrust of mobile payments and all sorts of other information-loaded applications and programs all packed into one mobile device, cell phones are juicy targets for crooks. Getting a handle on theft and eliminating the usefulness of cell phones seems a good step for consumers, but the carriers’ faint excuses speak volumes about their priorities.