(05/09/08) THE BRONX ? A free tool available through the NYPD could help residents retrieve their cell phones in the event they are stolen.

Thefts of cell phones are on the rise in the Bronx and rest of the city. The most desirable model for thieves seems to be the Sidekick. Police say that particular model is popular among thieves because with the simple switch of a sim card, crooks can start using it right away.

Thieves typically ask a victim for the time, then when the person pulls out their phone to get that information, it is taken right out of their hands.

However, residents have a tool that could allow them to get their phones back if they are stolen. Police can use cell phone etching to engrave a tracking number inside a person?s phone. The number is invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen with an ultraviolet light.

If a stolen phone is recovered by police, they can match the number to the phone?s rightful owner.

Cell phone etching is free and can be performed at any precinct without an appointment. Cell phone carrier T-Mobile also suggests owners protect their Sidekicks with passwords for both the phones and sim cards.