The United States and Mexico have signed an agreement aimed at preventing the cross-border trafficking of stolen cell phones, smart phones and tablet computers.
AFP reports that the Mexican Secretariat of Communications and Transport and the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have agreed to share a database of stolen phones in order to block their reactivation, thus nulling the value of these electronic appliances on the black market.
About 40 percent of all robberies in New York, Washington and other US cities involve cell phones, an although there are no offiicial estimates, it is believed that some of the devices wind up in Latin American markets, including Mexico.
According to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the agreement acts as a strong disincentive to would-be transnational phone traffickers. "US and Mexican collaboration to block reactivation of stolen mobile devices in both countries sends a clear message to thieves and criminal gangs: This is a crime that does not pay," Genachowski said.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the extent of organized crime's involvement in phone trafficking is likely limited, Mexican authorities say there appears to be a link between phone trafficking and crimes like extortion and kidnapping.
This is not the first case of a coordinated approach to phone theft between countries. In response to increasing mobile phone robberies worldwide, government representatives from the United States, Turkey, Spain, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia met in Bogota on October 12 to agree to monitor the transnational trafficking of stolen phones more closely, laying the foundation for further cooperation in the future.
Some countries are responding to the problem of phone theft by introducing strict penalties for those who commit the crime. In Guatemala, for instance, the legislature is debating a bill introduced in June which would mandate prison sentences of up to eight years for an individual convicted of activating a stolen phone.