NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Cellphone companies and the government have joined forces to crack down on cellphone thefts.
Sen. Charles Schumer said major cellphone carriers and the Federal Communications Commission have agreed to set up a database of identification numbers that are unique to each phone. Until now, carriers could only disable "SIM" cards.
Cellular carriers will be able to use the list to permanently disable a phone once it has been reported stolen.
Schumer said the goal is to make a stolen cellphone as worthless as an empty wallet.
CNET's Kent German said it probably won't stop phones from being stolen in the first place but at least the thieves won't be able to use them.
"Once that phone is stolen, the fact it can't be used again is going to be some assurance to customers and the carriers that a phone isn't going to be out there, their individual bill isn't going to be ringing up," German said.
Smartphone thefts have risen dramatically in recent years in New York City. The NYPD reports nearly half of all property crimes against individuals last year involved a cellphone.
"Ten years ago the theft of cellphones and handheld devices comprised of about eight percent of our robberies and grand larcenies," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Kelly is hoping the initiative will aid police departments in battling the growing problem.
"Carriers with the push of a button will be able to take highly-prized stolen instruments and turn them into worthless pieces of plastic," Kelly said.
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