Wireless carriers and the U.S. government are finally working together to help battle the continuing problem of cell phone theft.

All four major carriers, along with the FCC, have reached an agreement to build a central database of stolen handsets to hopefully deter criminals.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal (via MacRumors), the database will track phones that are lost or stolen, and deny the handset access to voice or data services:

Cellphone theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S., law-enforcement officials nationwide say. The deal between the FCC and the wireless carriers is partly the result of pressure from frustrated police chiefs. The Major Cities Chiefs Association, an affiliation of 70 police chiefs from large cities across the U.S. and Canada, published a resolution in February calling on the FCC to require telecom companies to implement technology to disable stolen devices.

Behind the increase in crime: A lucrative market for used phones. Thieves can sell pilfered devices to local merchants or street-corner middlemen – or hawk them on sites such as eBay.com, Amazon.com or Craigslist.org, where a used iPhone, for instance, can fetch several hundred dollars.

Currently, Verizon and Sprint block phones that are reported being stolen from being reactivated. But GSM technology has hampered AT&T or T-Mobile from doing the same thing until now.

With the plan, the major carriers will develop individual databases within six months with integration planned over the next year.

This database should hopefully help Apple take a more proactive approach to stolen iPhones. According to ifoAppleStore, Apple often offers free warranty replacements for thieves who present a stolen phone at a Genius Bar.

Are you glad the government and wireless carriers are finally working together to help stop cell phone thieves? If you’ve ever had your iPhone stolen, how was the situation handled by your wireless carrier?

(Image via Silicon Angle)