Next week, Mike Sullivan will ask the big telcos and the CRTC to ban stolen phones from their networks. He will be introducing a motion in the House and launching a campaign to gather public support.
Right now, as dozens of children will attest, stolen cell phones can be resold and re-registered if the buyers simply insert another SIM card—and SIM cards are cheap. Each phone does have a unique serial number, however, which must be provided when it is registered. The telcos simply don’t track those numbers or ban them from their networks. Doing so is technically possible; the EU does it, as do some South American countries, and the United States has promised to do it before the end of the year.
If Sullivan’s plan is implemented, phones would become much less valuable. They still have some uses, and could still be sold to international buyers on eBay, for instance; cell phone thieves, however, are not likely to be the most industrious bunch of internet capitalists, however. The Wall Street Journal says,
In London, cellphone-related crimes last fiscal year averaged roughly 8,000 per month, a decline from more than 10,000 per month in the fiscal year ending April 2004, according to the U.K.’s National Mobile Phone Crime Unit. That was despite a near-doubling in the number of handsets in circulation over that time.
Sullivan said when I spoke to him that he was moved to tackle this issue by speaking to students and police. Cell phone thefts are plaguing high schools across the city. Last year, there were 1800 cell phone muggings in Toronto, and students may account for as many as 70% of the lost phones. Several reported robberies happen in Weston each month, and this month we had 6 in one week.