The black market for mobile phones stolen in the United States extends beyond its frontiers. In a move that reads like a telecommunications take on “Fast & Furious,” the U.S. and Mexico will be cooperating on a plan to make sure that mobile devices purloined here aren’t reactivated south of the border.
In a deal signed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Mexican telecommunications providers will participate in an international database of stolen phones and mobile devices. Further, the Federal Communications Commission and Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transport will cooperate on a report to monitor the performance of mobile carriers in fulfilling their pledge not to allow the activation of stolen phones on their networks and collaborate on an estimate on the size of the market for stolen devices. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the pact alongside Mexican Communications Undersecretary Hector Olavarria Tapia.
Theft of mobile devices is a growing problem, accounting for as much as 40 percent of all robberies in large U.S. cities, according to an FCC release. Washington, D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier appeared at the announcement to praise the initiative. She also had some kind words for Genachowski, saying that she “got nowhere” on this issue until she brought it to the Chairman’s attention. “Something that law enforcement had been fighting for for years and very intensely for months. A phone call to the Chairman and literally it was resolved in less than three months,” she said.
Genachowski said that the current level of U.S. carrier participation covers more than 90 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers. The Chairman also had some tough talk for would-be thieves. The news that stolen phones can’t be reactivated,” Genachowski said, "sends a clear message to thieves and criminal gangs: this is a crime that does not pay.”