Chicago City Council Committee Attempts to Dry Up Stolen Cell Phone Market Again
The city council has tried several times over the years to dry up the market for stolen cellphones dumped by street gangs to fund their operations.
Yet the armed robberies continue unabated – on the streets, on the CTA and during the avalanche of carjackings.
This week, the Licensing Committee tried again.
At the request of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and South Side Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), the committee on Wednesday unanimously approved an order that dramatically increases fines and penalties for junk dealers, pawnshops and bogus phone repair shops that buy and resell cellphones stolen.
Instead of a fine of up to $2,000 for each violation, the maximum penalty would increase to $10,000 for each illegal sale. Two or more violations within two years would cost the company its license for four years. No one could open on the premises for a year. Unlicensed companies would be subject to the same fines and penalties.
Hairston said the order was triggered by a carjacking in his neighborhood that turned deadly.
“They got $100 for the cell phone. But a young man lost his life,” Hairston said.
“We…have had a long history of trying to get these people to do the right thing. It’s a way to increase the fines hoping they become more responsible.
In fact, Hairston argued, the one-year revocation for a specific address was not long enough to prevent “another family member or friend from reopening on the same site and continuing the same practices.”
Former mayor Rahm Emanuel desperately tried to dry up the black market for stolen cellphones after his then-teenage son had his cellphone stolen on the street from their Ravenswood home.
The order defended by Emanuel prohibited the purchase of any cell phone from a minor and prohibited thrift stores, kiosks and service providers from purchasing or activating any cell phone until the number of series is cross-checked against a database of stolen phones.
These same stores were required to make their records available for inspection and to notify the police if someone tried to sell a stolen phone.
The order also tightened the regulatory grip on pawnshops and second-hand dealers who deal in stolen phones. Retailers with five or more used cell phones were required to obtain a used dealer’s license.
Business owners were also required to stick stickers with the inventory number on used cell phones, maintain an inventory of accepted phones, cross-check the database of stolen and lost cell phones, and issue a receipt to the buyer.
Hairston complained on Wednesday that the order “is not being enforced as it should be.”
Trade and Consumer Protection Commissioner Ken Meyer countered that annual inspections show 94% compliance.
“When an individual brings in a cell phone to resell it to the used dealer, that dealer is responsible for keeping that cell phone there for 30 days. They cannot sell it on the 25th day. They cannot sell it on the Day 22,” Meyer said.
“This cell phone [also] must be recorded in a register of stolen goods, which is updated daily. Our investigators are inspecting this log to make sure it’s there. And the owner must check the police department’s records on the computer system daily to make sure the cell phone isn’t reported as “stolen.”
Hairston was unimpressed.
“They don’t. In the incident I am referring to, he was sold hours after the murder,” she said.
Meyer replied: “That’s why we’re cracking down. … That’s why we want to increase fines and penalties.
Detective George Hilbring described himself as the Chicago Police Department’s “pawnbroker and thrift dealer liaison”.
Hilbring said he is notified “whenever there is a hit” on the serial number of a stolen cellphone. This has happened twice in the past four days, he said.
But when Hilbring admitted under questioning that he was a “one-man show”, Hairston said, “You could use some help.”
In the Hairston neighborhood homicide, Hilbring said, the assailant immediately took the tablet to a thrift store, and “our detectives were able to retrieve it” from the store.
That store, Hillbring added, “did not initially report the transaction and they have since been cited.”
Hairston replied: ‘So they’ve been cited ever since and a young man is dead. Does that seem fair to you? »
When Hilbring said, “That’s why we’re here to increase fines,” Hairston replied, “We have to make it stick. The only way to stop this is to stop them.