Almost 12,000 of New York’s 80,000 crimes as of September this year were Apple products: phones, laptops, and tablets. Across the country in San Francisco, half of all robberies are cell phone related.

We love our gadgets. Unfortunately, so do thieves.

That’s why Gazelle, a leading gadget trade-in site that has already bought more than a million phones, laptops, and tablets from consumers, is implementing CheckMEND, a service that compiles 150 billion digital records on stolen devices from carriers, police, the FBI, and more.

“Essentially, we’ll check whether a smartphone or tablet has been reported lost or stolen,” Gazelle’s Sarah Welch told me yesterday. “When we receive an item we’re checking it against the database, and if it’s been reported stolel we won’t pay the sender.”

Thieves’ problem, of course, is turning plastic, glass, metal, and electrons into cash. That’s where, too often reseller sites come along — sites where anyone can send electronics in exchange for cash. Now, however, that’s going to be harder, if not impossible.

Gazelle is the first consumer electronics trade-in site to implement CheckMEND. The system isn’t perfect — potentially stolen devices will be returned to senders, not sent to police — but it’s a good start at making crime pay less.

I asked Welch why Gazelle is doing this, and whether this wouldn’t actually hurt business.

“There will be some transactions that we’re saying no to, and it may be a small revenue hit in the short term,” she answered. “But we think this is the right thing to do. We pioneered this space and we think this should be standard … and from a longer-term brand effect it will be a positive.”

I wondered aloud what Gazelle actually does with all the phones it buys from people.

Apparently the company, which provides a free data wipe service so customers’ data isn’t compromised, sells a few of its phones via eBay, but most to wholesalers who refurb them and re-sell them domestically and abroad. In fact, chances are if you’ve ever been compensated by an insurance agency with a replacement for a lost device,  it may have come from Gazelle or another trade-in site.

The new CheckMEND service is provided by a UK-based company, Recipero, which has recently expanded to the U.S. Despite its relatively recent introduction to the market, Recipero says its already “the largest U.S. consumer electronics background report service.”

In the future, CheckMEND review may actually take place on the front end of the transaction, online or via an app, which would address the stolen-or-not issue before the device shows up at Gazelle’s offices. For now, that’s a little too complex a solution.

photo credit: West Midlands Police via photopin cc