Senator Schumer Aims To Crack Down On Cell Phone Thefts

Nov 27, 2013

Credit WAMC/Allison Dunne

A registry of stolen cell phones will launch the end of this month. New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says the database is intended to crack down on the black market for cell phones. He wants to go a step further, with legislation.

New York’s senior senator recently visited the City of Poughkeepsie police station where he referred to this year’s statistics on cell phone theft.

Captain Steven Minard is with the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department.

To help, Schumer and the Federal Communications Commission last year announced a new effort with cell phone carriers to stem the so-called apple picking.

Those unique ID numbers he mentions are the International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers. And cell phone companies can permanently disable stolen phones once they are reported stolen. However, the database can only work if thieves do not tamper with these ID numbers to reactivate the phones. While praising the registry, Schumer says more needs to be done.

He says the bill has the support of the CTIA -The Wireless Association, an international nonprofit organization. It also has the support of City of Poughkeepsie Police Captain Minard, who says imposing criminal penalties would add to the efficacy of such a registry.

Schumer and Minard highlighted some recent cell-phone theft cases in Dutchess County. They say in June, a woman was the victim of a strong-arm robber in the Red Hook CVS parking lot, where her purse and phone were the targets. In April, police say two Poughkeepsie teenagers were arrested on College Avenue after allegedly robbing a pedestrian’s cell phone using a BB-gun designed to look like a pistol. They cite another case from October, when they say sheriffs responded to apartments in Wappinger where four people were arrested for allegedly breaking into cars and stealing cell phones.

Schumer says cell-phone theft rates should drop after the registry goes online, and decline further if his legislation passes.