Despite aims to stem the growth in device crime, such as the database of stolen devices created by the FCC and law officials in the US, there is no single way to stop it. There are many factors contributing to device theft and the chance of recovery is actually decreasing with current attempts to thwart the crimes.
Although the US and other countries are developing national registries for stolen smartphones, these registries have a major limitation: they are national, not international. Devices will continue to be stolen and exported to other markets for resale (particularly countries in Latin America, EMEA and Asia Pacific). As highlighted by Business Week, the US registry has made it difficult, if not impossible, to reactivate a stolen device in the US, though it "isn't likely to rob thieves of the desire to steal your phone." Instead, smartphones are being sold abroad.
Washington DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier shares that the quick shift in resale of devices has "voided" the work of this blacklist because secondhand dealers amass phones, sell them to a middleman, who sell them abroad for up to $400. The FCC is currently working to share data about stolen phones abroad in the hopes this can stem the flow of devices; Mexico recently signed on.
Within the US, stolen devices can also be sold to electronic recyclers, or used on WiFi only, which isn't a huge limitation given the proliferation of apps that can make calls.
As a smartphone user, do your part to prevent device theft:
If your device is stolen, do not attempt self recovery and call the police immediately.