Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. is proposing legislation that would deter robberies involving cell phones by making it more difficult to fence stolen mobile devices at second-hand dealers in Newark.
The legislation would make it illegal for second-hand dealers to purchase a mobile device without requiring identification and recording the name of the seller along with the serial numbers of the device. Second-hand dealers would be prohibited from purchasing devices with serial numbers that have been removed, altered or obliterated.
The legislation was unanimously adopted by the City Council on first reading today. A public hearing on the measure has been scheduled for Dec. 17.
“Newark, like many cities across the country, has seen a dramatic rise in robberies and much of that can be attributed to people being robbed of their mobile devices,” Ramos said. “A stolen mobile device can be sold for anywhere from $100 to $200 cash at one of the many second-hand dealers that have opened in our city with no questions asked. Once this legislation passes, it won’t be as easy to sell a stolen cell phone in Newark.”
Robberies in Newark have been on the rise for several years. In 2013, Newark reported 2,433 robberies compared with 1,655 in 2010, according to the Uniform Crime Report. More than a third of all robberies in 2013 in Newark were cell phone thefts, according to police.
The proposed legislation has the support of the Newark Downtown District. In a letter to the City Council, Anthony McMillan, the chief executive officer of the Newark Downtown District, said many robberies in the downtown district are directly related to cell phones.
“Creating this ordinance making it mandatory for merchants to require sellers of cell phones to produce valid identification is another way the City Council will show is continued partnership with the Newark Police Department and the NDD via the Community Resource Center to eradicate the quality of life violations that interfere with the peace of mind, which is every person’s right,” McMillian said.
Under the proposed legislation, dealers would be required to record the mobile equipment identifier (MEID), the international mobile station equipment identity (IMEI) or the electronic serial number (ESN) of the wireless device. The seller would also be required to produce two forms of identification and the dealer would be required to record the name and address of the seller. The dealers would be required to maintain records and must make them available to police during business hours. Failure to keep records would result in a fine of up to $500 for each offense.
“If someone wants to sell a mobile device that they purchased, they should have no problem showing their ID to a dealer,” Ramos said. “Someone selling a stolen mobile device isn’t going to want to have their name recorded. By shutting down this secondary market, we will definitely curb robberies in our city.”