Tampa, Florida -- Small, easily re-sold and in too many cases, easy pickings.
Police in major cities say up to 40% of all robberies are now linked to cell phones. And Tampa Bay is no exception.
A recent study from Lookout, a San Francisco-based mobile security firm, ranks our region 10th in stolen and lost phones. $33 million worth each year.
"We get about 25 to 30 a month," says St. Petersburg Police spokesperson Mike Puetz.
St. Pete police see their fair share of stolen devices. On average that's almost oneevery day. And those are the ones they hear about.
Often, says Puetz, thephones aretaken in conjunction with other more-violent crimes, "to inhibit the person's ability to call for help," he said.
In response, the FCC has now reached an agreement with major cell phone companies.The idea, say officials, is to assign every phone it's own individual serial number. Much like a car's VIN number.
By doing so,the device, if stolen, can be disabled remotely.
Not just the service. The entire phone itself.
"I think it's a great idea," said Gary Kirkland,who was using his cellphone around lunch-time today in Tampa.
While most people seem to favor the plan, because it takes away the financial incentive to swipe the phones, it does raise a big brother issue with some customers.
Lindsay Harrington says she has nothing to worry about, but "I would just be concerned with the privacy aspect of it - in terms of being able to track people more," she said.
Still, disabling the phone it also prevents secondary crimes byblocking access to personal and financial data stored on the devices.
Billy Dominguez, whose phone has been stolen - twice - says it's a great idea.
"If I do lose this somehow, I do want it all to be gone so that whoever took it can't use it."
To give the rule some serious teeth, tampering with the serial numbers may soon be a federal crime carrying up to five years in prison.
Phone companies hope to have the plan in place in about six months.