WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced new legislation at the White Plains District Court House on Tuesday in the wake of a dramatic spike in cell phone thefts in Westchester County.
The measure will make it a federal crime to tamper with the unique identification number of a cell phone by imposing a multi-year criminal penalty.
Throughout Westchester County, the County Police Department reports that cell phones were involved in roughly 38 percent of all thefts, up from 33-percent last year.
In White Plains, for example, cell thefts have jumped 35-percent in just the last year, from approximately 190 in 2012 to 260 in 2013. Since 2012, cell phone thefts are up 41-percent in Greenburgh; having risen from 270 thefts in 2012 to 380 in 2013.
Last year, Schumer and the Federal Communications Commission 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 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 highlighted the urgency of his bill, which will add teeth to the cell phone registry, which just got up and running late last year.
“These crimes of stolen smart phones are rapidly rising in the White Plains area and we must make it clear that if you alter the identification number of a stolen cell phone, you will face serious consequences,” Schumer said in remarks made at the announcement. “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 just got up and running at the end of last year with my legislation means we will finally have the tools to hang-up on would-be smart phone thieves who now prey on Westchester County residents.”
Schumer, joined by the City of White Plains Police Commissioner David Chong, Chief of White Plains Police James M. Bradley, Town of Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner, and Greenburgh Police Chief Christopher McNerney, cited the measurable uptick in cell-phone related thefts.