Restricting anonymous “pay-as-you-go” phones could help tackle county lines gangs dealing in drugs and crime.
People buying the mobiles, or a replacement sim card, should have to register their details, recommends a police report.
The simple procedure would prevent handsets and numbers being used for drug dealing, says Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
The phones – known as “burners” – are popular among crime gangs.
They allow calls to be made and received and not be traced or monitored.
County line gangs shift drugs from large cities to the provinces, often using children and vulnerable adults.
The HMICFRS report recommends the Home Office should review the on-going criminal abuse of mobile phones.
It adds: “The present arrangements that enable criminality by allowing the anonymous acquisition of phones and numbers, should be re-examined”
HMICFRS inspector Mark Powell said restricting the use of the mobiles would be “welcomed” by the police.
He said: “Officers have to resort to lengthy investigations to try to prove who had a phone.
“But clearly there’s a wider debate to be had.
“We are not saying anonymity should no longer be available to everybody, but we are saying there needs to be a review of the criminal abuse of mobile phones.”
Sir Thomas Winsor, chief inspector of constabulary, said: “People regard their communications as a species of privacy that should not be intruded into.
“That’s why we say the matter should be considered.”