March 1, 2013 - 12:29 pm
By Kris Monteith | Acting Bureau Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

Last night, D.C. Chief of Police Cathy Lanier honored Chairman Genachowski with the Chief of Police Medal of Merit Award for spearheading efforts to combat massive nationwide smartphone theft and related assaults.

In April 2012, Chairman Genachowski joined major police department chiefs, including Chief Lanier, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Senator Chuck Schumer, and wireless carriers to announce an industry commitment to develop a shared, centralized database to record unique identifiers of stolen wireless devices in order to prevent reuse and make it harder for thieves to resell them.

I accepted the Chief of Police Medal of Merit Award last night on behalf of Chairman Genachowski at Police Department’s Annual Awards Ceremony. (Chairman Genachowski is currently in California for the FCC’s Second National Hearing on Network Resilience and Reliability.)

As Chief Lanier explained, smartphone theft is a serious issue. In the District of Columbia, New York City, and other major cities, police say as much as 40 percent of all robberies now involve stolen cell phones and other small electronic devices.  These robberies endanger both the physical safety of victims as well as the safety of the information on the stolen devices.

Chief Lanier alerted Chairman Genachowski to the problem last year, and he worked quickly to address it. Working with carriers, manufacturers, and operating system and software companies, the FCC announced the PROTECTS initiatives last April. As part of the initiatives, the wireless industry committed to create a centralized database system to prevent reactivation of stolen devices. Chief Lanier reports the campaign is paying off, with robberies down 8 percent.

Last November, Chief Lanier said: “this is something that law enforcement has been fighting for years – and very intensely for months. And a phone call to the Chairman, and it was literally resolved in less than three months with a plan in place.”

The FCC is also working with other governments to devalue devices abroad while we take steps to reduce smart phone thefts here.  Chairman Genachowski reached an agreement with Mexico that will ensure the cooperation on databases.

We’re also continuing to work with Senator Schumer and Congress to urge them to maintain their focus on stolen cell phones and give us and other stakeholders the tools we need to combat the theft of devices.

In addition to the information that wireless carriers are making available to their subscribers, the FCC also unveiled the online Smartphone Security Checker. It’s an online tool to arm consumers with mobile security steps customized for Android, Apple iOS, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile operating systems. The tool is the result of a public-private partnership between government experts, smart phone developers, and private IT and security companies.

We commend all those involved in the effort – including police departments and members of Congress, carriers, and others— to call attention to a growing epidemic of robberies targeting smartphone users.