To combat the escalating problem of smart phone theft, the four national U.S. wireless carriers joined forces this week with the FCC and law enforcement agencies in committing to establish a new, centralized database that will help identify stolen cell phones and render such devices incapable of use. The voluntary initiative, announced at a Washington, D.C. press conference on Tuesday, follows up on a resolution, published in February by the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), which advised the FCC to require wireless carriers to disable stolen devices through the implementation of specialized network technologies. (The MCCA is a representative body of police chiefs from major metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. and Canada.) Since the advent of the iPhone in 2007, thefts of smart phones and other wireless broadband devices have surged in major cities throughout the U.S. Statistics compiled by the New York City police department demonstrate that, out of the 26,000 incidents of electronics theft reported in New York City during the first ten months of 2011, 81% involved mobile phones. Similarly, incidents of cell phone theft reported to the metropolitan Washington, D.C. police jumped by 54% between 2007 and 2011. Although exact details of the database initiative have yet to be developed, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA have agreed to list stolen wireless devices, according to unique serial numbers, in individual carrier databases within the next six months. Devices listed in these databases will be blocked from accessing carrier networks for voice and data services. In the twelve-month period to follow, participating carriers will integrate their respective databases into a unified national database. Regional wireless carriers are expected to join the initiative over the next two years, and the four national carriers have further pledged to launch programs to encourage subscribers to set passwords on their devices that would deter theft. In accordance with their agreement with the FCC, the carriers will also make their databases interoperable with similar anti-theft databases that are already in use throughout Europe. Observing that “new technologies create new risks,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski explained to reporters: “we wanted to find a way to reduce the value of stolen smart phones.”