In our crime watch section, cell phone thefts are a common occurrence and are becoming an increasing strain on the NYPD. Last year, say police, almost 42 percent of property thefts involved a cell phone. And the fact that cell phones, like the iPhone or Android phones, can easily be resold on the black market once the SIM card is thrown away is further fueling these type of thefts. Just last August, a 16-year-old boy was reportedly beaten and robbed of his cell phone inside a Brooklyn train station.
The problem, it seems, has become so rampant and widespread that U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have successfully persuaded cell phone carriers and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to create a database of unique cell phone identifiers. These identifiers, known as International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), would allow companies to permanently disable cell phones that had been reported stolen, thus rendering the devices worthless on the black market.
According to the Senator’s office, IMEI’s function similarly to Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), which give cars a unique identification number. Senator Schumer is also going one step further and introducing legislation to make it a federal crime to tamper with phones with an IMEI number, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison for those found guilty.
“With the press of a button, carriers will be able to disable phones and turn highly prized stolen property into worthless chunks of plastic,” said New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. “Like draining the swamp to fight malaria, we’re trying to dry up the market to fight i-phone thefts.”
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