MPD fights robbery surge, seeks new FCC rule to 'brick' stolen smart phones

D.C. police officers are trying to fight a surge in robberies plaguing the city, particularly in neighborhoods that don't normally see as much crime.

In some parts of the city robberies are up by as much as 70 percent.

In Tenleytown and the surrounding neighborhoods there's been a rash of snatch and grabs, theft from autos and even some armed robberies that have left the community shaken.

In the first few weeks of this year the District has had nearly 500 robberies and half of those were smart phones or other portable electronic devices.

Armed robberies have doubled over that same time period.

A quick glance at the D.C. crime map shows nearly 30 reports of robberies in a neighborhood near Chevy Chase.

D.C Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the black market for smart phones is what's driving the spike in crime.

Most of the victims are unsuspecting pedestrians using their phones.

To combat the spike in robberies, police have reassigned 200 officers, added a new public awareness campaign, and have announced a $10,000 reward.

"We've done what we can at the local level," Lanier says.

Lanier wants cellular phone service providers in the United States to do what their counterparts in the United Kingdom do.

When a cellular device is reported stolen, phone companies disable the phone so that it can't be used again. It's called "bricking" and Lanier says it would make electronic devices a lot less attractive to thieves.

Lanier has been busy lobbying Congress, the Chairman of the FCC, and the cellular phone industry trying to get them to agree to kill cell phones that have been reported stolen.

The chief says the FCC is on board, but the phone companies are reluctant.

So far this year D.C. police have arrested 141 people charged with robberies.

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