CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - With cell phone theft on the rise, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has announced a plan to deter theft by preventing the illegal resale of stolen phones.
Brown was joined by Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil and Tess Hammons, a Cincinnati resident whose phone was stolen at a local dog park on Wednesday. According to the Cincinnati Police Department, there have been 420 reported cell phone thefts in Cincinnati in 2013.
"Too many southwest Ohioans have been targeted for crime, just because of the phone in their pocket or purse," Brown said. "With so much of this criminal activity fueled by the black market, this legislation will crack down on cell phone theft and impose severe consequences on thieves who will think twice before trying to make a quick buck."
Criminals often target cell phones because they can easily be resold on the black market. Currently, most carriers only deactivate a stolen cell phone's SIM card rather than the entire phone.
While carriers have agreed to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set up a database of unique cell phone identification numbers to allow stolen cell phones to be entirely deactivated, some criminals are tampering with those unique identifiers– known as International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers – to avoid detection.
Brown is cosponsoring legislation that would impose criminal penalties for tampering with cell phone IMEIs. The Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2013 would add criminal penalties of up to five years for criminals who tamper with cell phones IMEIs in order to circumvent the database. The bill would provide exceptions for legal alterations made to repair or refurbish phones or to protect the privacy and security of the end user. The bill has the full support of CTIA, the Wireless Association, which joined forces with the FCC to implement the national database.