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'Bricking' Now An Option For Stolen Smartphones

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D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier talks about a new policy that allows cell phone users to "brick" their stolen smart phones.
Armando Trull
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier talks about a new policy that allows cell phone users to "brick" their stolen smart phones.

There's now a new tool in the fight against cell phone theft: "bricking." Bricking is a technique that allows customers to render their cell phone useless if it's been stolen. 

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced the new policy at a press conference at MPD headquarters earlier today.

If a person's iPhone or Android is stolen, one phone call to the carrier will kill the device. "That means the person who stole your phone can't resell it on the black market, says Lanier. "The phone will essentially be useless."

For years, this method has not been possible in the United States and stolen cell phones could be easily reactivated. Some other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, already allow customers to brick stolen cell phones and the practice was just implemented in the United States this year. 

The inability to brick phones has made expensive smart phones very attractive to thieves because of the high resale value, according to Lanier. Lanier and others have been lobbying Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the phone companies to allow "bricking" in the U.S. It garnered support police departments nationwide, as well as the FCC.

"Very quickly, everyone came to appreciate the importance of this," says D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. "Especially since we saw the escalation of robberies in the last year."

Lanier says if person's phone is stolen, the first move is to call 9-1-1, and then individual's carrier. That way police will try to catch the thief.

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