St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signed into law legislation to help St. Louis Police reduce cell phone thefts and robberies.
“Everyone has a right to walk down the street and text or make calls in peace,” Slay said. “Unfortunately, the second hand market for stolen cell phones has disrupted that.”
St. Louis is part of a national trend. Overall crime is down in St. Louis, but crimes involving cell phones are up. So, when the police asked for a change in the law to help improve safety, the Mayor’s Office, License Collector and City Counselor’s Office drafted Board Bill 171.
“We need to be able to follow these stolen phones as they are resold,” said incoming Police Chief Sam Dotson. “This legislation will help us find who stole a phone, make an arrest and prosecute. If we do that enough times, the thieves will get the idea. That will make people safer.”
The legislation requires stores and shops that buy and sell used cell phones to keep the following information when they purchase a used phone:
1. A complete and accurate description of the cellular phone or electronic communication device taken, purchased or received by such merchant including serial number, if any.2. The date, time and place of the purchase.3. The correct legal name, date of birth and place of residence, including City and State, of the seller.4. A copy of the seller’s driver’s license, or if not available, a copy of the seller’s military identification, passport or other approved State identification number or State identification card.5. The amount paid for the property.6. A photograph, taken by the secondhand dealer, of the transaction depicting a discernable likeness of the seller.7. The home, business and cellular telephone number of seller.8. The name of the employee handling the purchase.9. The right thumbprint of the seller and, if the right thumbprint cannot beobtained, the left thumbprint shall be obtained and an explanation shall be provided as to why the right thumbprint was not available.
In addition, if police believe a used phone is stolen, the second hand dealer will not be allowed to sell it for 60 days while police investigate. Second hand dealers will be required to cooperate with police as a condition of their license to sell used goods.
The legislation allows FCC licensed cell phone companies to be exempt for their own customers if they do the following:
1. Give a credit for a used telephone, and not cash.2. If they receive and keep the customer’s credit information.3. If the mobile service company participates in a service to allow customers to block all use of a stolen phone, reports stolen cellular phones to the national database that tracks stolen cell phones, and does not accept cell phones that are in the database.4. The day they accept a used cell phone, they report the transaction to a police computer database.
“Our goal here is to dry up the market for stolen phones,” Slay said. “The national database will be the best way to do that for the cell phone companies. That will allow us to concentrate on the small second hand stores.”
AT&T supported the legislation, and has been a national leader in protecting the safety of its customers. “AT&T has always had a strong working relationship with law enforcement and we will continue to cooperate with them in addressing the crime of stolen cell phones,” said John Sondag, president of AT&T-Missouri. “In addition to providing our customers with information on protecting their phones and blocking stolen AT&T phones from our network, in October we became one of the first carriers to begin sharing a database of stolen phone information with other carriers to prevent usage of stolen phones on their networks as well.”
The legislation was sponsored by Alderman Craig Schmid, the chairman of the aldermanic Public Safety Committee. “This legislation, together with the partnership being formed with our good corporate citizen, AT&T, forms the basis of a pioneering effort (the first of its kind) to begin focusing on a way to catch up with this wonderful technology in order to make it more difficult for someone to harm you over your Smart Phone or other electronic device,” Schmid said. “I thank the mayor for his leadership on this issue and applaud the partnership with AT&T.”