You know how when you're watching a bloated crime drama on TV and the cops have DNA of the suspect, they punch it into their murderer database to figure out who it must be? Imagine if law enforcement officials wanted to create that kind of database for people who steal iPhones. That is effectively what the Federal Communications Commission aims to achieve with its latest initiative. Except it won't be DNA. It'll be mobile ID numbers that the government uses to track down suspects.
And if a users reports that a device has been stolen, it will be shut down and taken out of service. The FCC says that in major metropolitan cities, around 40% of all robberies involve a cell phone, with smartphones being the biggest problem. So under the new project, the FCC will work with all major carriers to coordinate databases that include device ID numbers. That means that not only will your iPhone not work if someone steals it, they won't be able to take it to a store and get service for it either.
This doesn't solve the entire problem of smartphone theft. Crafty criminals have ways of changing the identification number of a mobile device, and as a matter of fact, doing that isn't even illegal in the US. Stepping in to the effort is outspoken Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who wants to make stealing a smartphone like stealing a car - it won't be worth your time and eventually you will get caught. His first priority in that endeavor is to criminalize the modification of device ID numbers.