Carriers agree to central database of stolen cellphones

It doesn't take long to find someone who has been a victim of cellphone theft. Audra Ramirez has been robbed several times and never got her device back.

"I believe they were sold and recrystalized, [which] is what they call it nowadays, and then they can turn it on anywhere, and that's ridiculous," Ramirez said.

The country's four largest mobile carriers have signed on as partners to create a central database of stolen cellphones.

Communications consultant Kevin Morris showed us via Skype that each cellphone has a serial number inside. Known as an ESN, carriers will know not to activate a cellphone reported stolen.

"For the majority of people who steal these phones, they just won't have access to flipping them out because the ESNs will be listed, so as soon as a carrier gets a number and they see that it's been stolen, it will stop them right in their tracks," Morris said.

The new database is likely to impact fencing of stolen cellphones online because buyers can't be sure they can be activated. The Federal Communications Commission and the wireless industry will also help educate consumers how to password protect their phones and how to use applications to locate and lock missing or stolen phones.

San Jose police said they believe the new database will reduce cellphone theft.

"It also sends a message to the criminals that if they're looking to steal this type of device, there really is not going to be a demand for it because it will be deactivated," San SJPD Ofcr. Jose Garcia said.

The new database will be rolled out in two phases. Individual carriers will have theirs ready in about six months. Then in 18 months, there will be one master database for all carriers.

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