Can D.C. Cops Foil Smartphone Robbers?

Guess what. Thieves love smartphones. D.C. photographer Liz Lynch had her iPhone snatched by a biker while walking. But you don't even have to make it an easy grab by texting or talking on it. That Android or iPhone can be in your pocket or your purse -- they'll simply confront you and demand it.

And there goes your life. At least that's what it feels like when you've lost all your numbers, contacts, messages, photos, music and tons of other data you've stored in it over time.

Fortunately, your chances of actually losing your life in the nation's capital have gone down. Murders are at an all-time low, according to D.C. crime statistics. But cellphone robberies are on the rise, with smartphone heists comprising approximately half of reported robberies in D.C. in 2012.

Washington is not alone. Personal technology thefts are rampant nationwide. That's why Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and other city police chiefs want to use IMEI numbers on cell phones, which imprint a unique ID that can disable a stolen device remotely, within days of a theft. They're lobbying the Federal Communications Commission and cell phone service suppliers and manufacturers to support the use of IMEI identifiers, theorizing that installing technology that would make the devices useless will wipe out the primary theft motive.

Yet, there may be other potential profits in smartphone theft. Under a planned incentive program to turn in smartphone thieves, D.C.'s MPD would offer as much as a $10,000 reward for information about a robbery.