Disable stolen cellphones, police tell carriers
Toronto police say the cellphone industry needs to do more to protect clients whose devices are stolen with increasing frequency.
Police say that cellphone robberies have doubled in the past three years, with 1,800 such cases occurring last year in Toronto.
"That’s not including theft," said Supt. Ron Taverner.
"That’s straight robberies, where victims were approached and physically accosted."
But the problems don’t end when a cellphone is ripped away from a user, or otherwise stolen.
The person who has taken the cellphone can easily use the device on another network, as no unified database of stolen devices exists.
The thief or thieves also can potentially access the data left on the phone.
Police say that cellphone companies should have a system in place where they can shut down a stolen phone, reducing the incentive for theft and robbery.
"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 Taverner.
The U.S. wireless industry recently committed to creating a national database system to allow providers to shut down stolen cellphones in the manner that police in Toronto describe.
For now, Toronto cellphone users are encouraged to register their phones with police, as part of a pilot project in 23 Division.
Taverner said police are inviting members of the public to bring in their cellphones, so that officers can take down key identification numbers from their devices.
"We look at their phone and we take the numbers that we need to take from them and then they’re given a sticker that goes on the phone," said Taverner.
"And then we have markings — invisible markings — that we put on the phone that we’ll be able to identify if the phone is stolen and then recovered, and we can then go back to the original owner."
However, several cellphone users told CBC News that they would have to be convinced that it was worth the hassle of registering their phones with police.
"If the probability of finding my phone was high, then it would be worth the time and effort to go to a police station and register," said Teresa Nguyen, when asked about the police registry.
With files from the CBC's Redmond Shannon