While most people merely block their SIMs, buy new handsets and get on with their lives after a cellphone theft, of the 40 cases reported to Delhi Police every day on an average, only four lead to retrieval of the mobiles. That's a mere one-in-ten recovery rate.
Cases of phone theft act as a precursor to most instances of identity theft, e-fraud and cyber crime, police officials said.
After the ministry of home affairs issued an advisory to all state police forces in February, making the registration of FIRs in cases pertaining to mobile thefts mandatory, the number of reported cases has gone up significantly.
According to Delhi Police statistics, 1,123 cases of robbed or stolen phones were lodged in 2011, while the figure was 1,205 the following year. In 2013, the number shot up to 3,610. However, owing to the government advisory, as many as 7,159 cases were registered till June 30 this year.
However, recovery of these phones still remains a problem.
"The procedure is cumbersome and simply involves too much paperwork," admitted a senior police officer.
"Honestly, the only instances a missing phone is put on tracking is when its user has suspected links to a terror organisation, is wanted in a heinous crime, or knows a police official senior enough to push his or her case," another officer said.
Others blamed recently-issued advisories governing phone-tapping and 'tough' anti-surveillance laws for their poor recovery record.
Delhi Police had to tweak their surveillance policy last year when a constable was caught attempting to gain access to call-detail records in an unauthorised manner.
The department disallowed everyone below the rank of a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) from giving a go-ahead for phone surveillance or tracking, to exhibit legal accountability. A year on, the procedure remains the same.