WHAM13 - Search Results
Cracking down on cell phone thefts
Rochester, N.Y. -- One new federal law goes into effect at the end of November and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is pushing for another that he hopes will deter thieves from targeting cell phones.
In Rochester, as in many places across the country, the spike in robberies over the past year has been driven by crimes involving cell phones. Thieves can often find easy victims, many times children, and can turn the phones into cash quick according to law enforcement officials.
In Rochester robberies involving cell phones account for three out of four reported robberies. Many other areas of violent or property crime have been on the decline.
But on November 30th a new "stolen cell phone registry" goes live and according to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer victims of theft can call their carrier and report the device stolen. The phone is added to the registry in case it surfaces elsewhere and in many cases the carrier will be able to remotely disable the phone making it useless and valueless.
"Everyone should remember here in the Rochester area and everywhere else if after November 30th your phone is stolen you report it into your carrier and it goes on a national registry," said Sen. Schumer (D, New York) in a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Yet Schumer now wants to add some teeth to the law by making it illegal to change a cell phone's unique identification number. That ID number is what enables the carrier to disable the phone. It is also something some thieves have figured out how to change according to Schumer.
"One of the worries is these criminals will find people who are expert at changing the number and they'll bring it to them and get it changed and then go off and sell the phone themselves," explained Schumer when asked about the need to make this a federal crime.
If this legislation passes it could mean those convicted of changing a phone's ID number would face up to five years in prison.
"I think if I were stealing cellphones maybe there would be a 50-50 chance that this phone is going to permanently turn off or that I'm going to get a good amount of money for this and unless they are stealing cell phones and constantly having them turned off permanently I don't think the thieves are going to be discouraged at all," said Suzannah who was robbed at gunpoint in August by three thieves who took, among other items, her cell phone.
"Someone approached us asking for a lighter and it turned out two of his friends came from behind us and they pulled a gun so we were on the ground, they took all our possessions including my cellphone," recalled Suzannah, whose last name 13WHAM is not using for her own safety. "The police were able to find them and the only things we got back were my credit card and my phone which they found because it was traceable."
She recalled investigators using her "Find My iPhone" app and being able to remotely turn on her phone and catch the three suspects miles away at a store.
Suzannah wonders if using similar tracing applications may be more effective for law enforcement than these proposed laws.
"I think tracing them is the way to go," she said. "If think if there's a way to advertise that these things are happening and that a great way to stop them is by making your phone traceable personally I think that's the best way to go but if you can't to do that being able to turn off your phone permanently it would probably work."