"Police in downtown Los Angeles have seen cellphone thefts soar 32% as smartphones like the IPhone become easily turned into pay-as-you-go phones. Police said phones are being commonly snatched from restaurant tables, libraries and nightclubs as people leave them unattended."
Profit may be a primary reason mobile carriers no longer share a database of mobile phone ID's and refuse to activate them. Mobile carriers profit handsomely from stolen mobile phones in several ways: the victim has to buy another phone and agree to a profitable new contract, and the user of the stolen phone starts a new line of service (prepaid or otherwise.)
An even more sinister motivation could be in play: law-enforcement agencies make extensive use of mobile phone network providers to surveill targets who are likely to use stolen smartphones. If stolen phones could no longer be used, it could greatly complicate law-enforcement agencies' electronic surveillance of their targets. And since mobile carriers profit handsomely from providing electronic surveillance of their users to law-enforcement agencies, they have yet another strong vested interest in providing service to stolen phone users.
My guess is that both mobile carriers and law-enforcement agencies are quietly lobbying behind closed doors to prevent the formation of any new laws that could force mobile carriers to stop providing service to stolen mobile phones. Or an I just being paranoid and seeing a conspiracy where none exists?