PORTLAND - The wireless industry and law enforcement are getting ready to shut down criminals by shutting down stolen devices.
The Federal Communications Commission wants to make sure smart phone theft is a crime that doesn't pay.
They've created a so-called "blacklist" that would immediately make stolen devices useless. The government wants to stop thieves from using your smartphone if it's ever stolen.
"If a phone is stolen, a button can be pressed and it can be rendered useless anywhere in the world," said Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Genachowski announced the new initiative Tuesday. Over the next six months, the nation's largest carriers will launch programs that prevent stolen devices from being reactivated.
The database will have a unique identification number of every cell phone, making it easy to immediately deactivate.
"It's like draining the swamp to fight malaria. What we are doing is drying up the market," said Ray Kelly, the New York Police Commissioner.
The gadgets are not only expensive, they're lockboxes for our most personal information and the devices account for as much as forty percent of thefts reported in America's big cities.
Portland is not exempt to these thefts.
"We have a number of cases every month where phones or iPads or tablet computers are stolen, laptops are still stolen and marketable. Anything that can improve our ability to respond to these cases; if the cell phone companies can track or render them useless so that thieves don't steal them, is going to benefit the police," Portland Police Bureau spokesperson, Sergeant Pete Simpson said.
Right now, when most tablets and phones are stolen they can't be tracked and immediately deactivated.
"These things are easily stolen. They're easily lost and they're easily sold and marketed on the black market because they aren't shut down," Simpson added.
Within eighteen months, the FCC hoped to merge all carriers into one national database. Until then Sgt. Simpson said you can do a lot to protect yourself.
"If you have a smart phone or a tablet, when you get it, learn the security settings. Learn how to set a password. Learn how to activate the GPS. Learn how to remotely access it if you need to to track it," he said.
European carriers are already using a similar system, successfully.
The five biggest carriers here in the United States are on board.