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brLast Year, Schumer Announced an Agreement Between Cell Carriers FCC to Create Stolen Cell Phone Registry by Nov 30th; Database Will Keep Track of Cell Phone ID Numbers and if Victims of Theft Report Their Phones Stolen, They Could be DisabledbrbrbrDatabase Can Only Work if Thieves Dont Tamper With Cell Phone ID Number Schumer Bill Would Add Criminal Penalty of Up to Five Years in Prison for Altering Unique Cell Phone ID NumbersbrbrbrOver 40% of All Robberies in Dutchess County Last Year Invol

Today, at the Police Department's Public Safety building in Poughkeepsie, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced legislation that will make it a federal crime to tamper with the unique identification number of a cell phone by imposing a five year criminal penalty, in the wake of a dramatic spike in cell phone thefts in Dutchess County. According to the Dutchess County Sherriff's Department, over 40% of all robberies this year in Dutchess county involved the theft of a cell phone up from 32% in 2012; and those figures may be a low estimate since cell phone thefts are not consistently reported to police.  In the city of Poughkeepsie, officials have documented a 3% rise in cell phone theft over the past year as well. The theft of Apple iPhones and smart phones has even spurred a new moniker, called "apple picking." Last year, Schumer and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a new effort along with major cell phone carriers that would create a stolen cell phone registry to track unique cell phone identification numbers. The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers allow cell phone companies to permanently disable stolen cell phones once they are reported stolen. The database can only work if thieves don't tamper with these IMEI numbers to reactive the phone. Schumer will highlight the urgency of his bill, which will add teeth to the cell phone registry set to go online by this month on November 30 th.


Schumer has been leading an effort to crackdown on cell phone theft and last year called for the creation of a national database among the carriers. Schumer noted, however, that without a criminal penalty for tampering with IMEI numbers, thieves could try to get around the ban simply by altering the number to reactivate the phone. The Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2013 adds a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison for tampering with the IMEI number of a cell phone. 


"These 'applepicking' crimes of stolen smart phones are rapidly rising in Dutchess County and we must make it clear that if you alter the identification number of a stolen cell phone, you will face serious consequences," said Schumer. "This legislation will make it a federal crime to tamper with a phone's identification number, putting teeth into our efforts to build a national stolen cell phone registry, and deter cell phone theft in the future.  Bolstering the national stolen phone database that goes live on  November 30 with my legislation means we will finally have the tools to hangup on wouldbe smart phone thieves who now prey on Dutchess County residents."


Before last year's historic agreement with the FCC and major cell phone carriers, when a cell phones was reported stolen, many American cell phone companies only deactivated the phone's "SIM" card. The "SIM" card is simply the account data storage component of the device. While deactivation of a SIM card does not allow for the device to be used with existing data and account information, SIM cards are easily removed and replaced, allowing stolen phones to be resold on the black market. All one needs to do is put a different SIM card into the device. Last year, at Schumer's urging, the industry agreed to work together with the FCC and establish a nationwide, interconnected database that will allow the carriers to share information and the unique identification IMEI number on stolen cell phones across networks, and ban the use of cell phones reported stolen. 


Schumer's bill, the  Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2013 is a critical piece of the plan because it will add criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for tampering with cell phones in order to circumvent the service ban on a stolen phone. The bill has the full support of CTIA, the Wireless Association, who have joined forces with Schumer and the FCC to implement the national database. Schumer said that his legislation would treat cell phones like cars: it is illegal to tamper with a car's unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is what makes it very hard to resell a stolen car, and has helped limit car theft.


Schumer, joined by Captain Minard from the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, provided examples of recent cell phone thefts in Dutchess County:


·         In October, Sheriffs responded to apartments in Wappinger where four were arrested for breaking into cars and stealing cell phones.


·         In June 2013, in Red Hook, a woman was the victim of a strongarm robbery in the Red Hook CVS parking lot, where her purse and phone were the target.


·         In April of this year, two Poughkeepsie teenagers were arrested on College Avenue in Poughkeepsie after robbing a pedestrian's cell phone using a BBgun that was designed to look like a pistol.


·         In March 2013, a man in Pawling was arrested for breaking into multiple cars in Dutchess and Putnam counties to steal electronics, mostly smart phones.


·         In October 2012, a group of 3 attacked and robbed a Chinese food delivery man of his cell phone while he was attempting to make his delivery on Rinaldi Boulevard in Poughkeepsie.


According to the FCC, approximately 40% of thefts in major American cities involve cell phones.