Chris Guttman-McCabe, CTIA's vice president of regulatory affairs, said the goal of creating theft databases is to render stolen cell phones worthless.
"We want to dry up the aftermarket," Guttman-McCabe said. "Hopefully, there will be no sense in stealing a phone and a once valuable piece of hardware will essentially turn into useless metal."
Right now, the incentive is to steal and that's creating huge losses, said Kevin Mahaffey, a co-founder of Lookout, a San Francisco-based mobile security firm which has advised carriers about the national database.
"Thieves know that carrying a smartphone is like carrying $500 in your hands," said Mahaffey. His company estimates that stolen and lost cell phones could cost American consumers more than $30 billion this year.
Many cities with highest rates of stolen and lost phones also rank among the FBI's listing of U.S. cities with the highest crime rates, including Cleveland, Detroit, Oakland and Newark, N.J., Mahaffey said.
Meanwhile, cell phone thefts and police response continue at a frenzied pace.
In Chicago, two men were each charged with armed robbery last week after stealing an iPhone from a teen.
In Oakland, nearly three dozen people were recently arrested during a sweep for allegedly stealing smartphones. On Tuesday, police arrested 15-year-old boy who allegedly swiped a woman's iPhone near Oakland's City Hall and sold it in downtown San Francisco for $200 to buy marijuana.
"It's a quick crime of opportunity, a snatch and grab, either by foot or on bike," Officer Johnna Watson, an Oakland police spokeswoman, said. "The thieves are gone in an instant."
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