Changes and Tips for Combating Cell Phone Theft

| September 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

photoIf you’ve watched the news lately you know that cell phone theft has become a major problem, not only in Baltimore, but throughout the country. Last month, several incidents of stolen – and attempted theft of – smart phones were reported in the Inner Harbor/South Baltimore area. Though a cellphone can be purchased for less than $200, the resale value of theses devices can be much higher because phones are much more expensive without a contract extension from a service provider.

As someone who is active in the Baltimore community, I am always looking for ways to keep Baltimore more safe and keep our residents more informed.  Typically many robberies can be traced to a small group of suspects, so it is important that the police have as many leads as possible so that arrests can be made quickly. It is also important that our residents and visitors follow the advice of our law enforcement so that they can lower their chance of being a target.

After talking to police officials, leaders in the technology industry and political leaders, here are some takeaways I have compiled on what is being done to limit this problem.

Technology

My first thought is, since almost anything is possible on an iPhone and other smart phones, there has to be a way our tech community can keep us as prepared as possible for an incident.  Betamore at 1111 Light Street in Federal Hill is great local hub for technology. The company produces great ideas and innovation, so I knew they would be the perfect place to seek advice.

Co-founder Mike Brenner, without hesitation, recommended Prey, an app with the slogan of, “The party is over for thieves.” Prey, which can be used on all devices including laptops, tablets and phones, not only creates evidence to catch the suspect, but also protects data and documents.  Prey is capable of tracking location right on the spot, grabbing screen shots of the device, hooking up to Wi-Fi when no internet is found, taking pictures of the suspects using the device’s webcam, keeping data safe, and fully locking down the device until a password is entered.

It clearly sounds like it is a great app that can help victims and the police department in the case of a stolen device.

Prevention

In working and communicating with the Southern District Police Department, they have emphasized concealing your smart phone while in public.  Tips for the public were as follows, “Avoid texting or talking on the phone while walking down the street, install a tracking device on your phone, and if you see any suspicious individuals, call 911.”

Many of these incidents have involved thieves quickly snatching phones from the hands of the victims, so it is important to prevent this opportunity.

Legislation

A hot-button issue with stolen phones has been the existence of ecoATM, a kiosk device that allows for the purchase of used phones and tablets.  Leaders from the Baltimore City and Washington, DC police departments, as well as several other leaders and jurisdictions throughout the country, have pushed for the ban of these devices.

On Monday, the Baltimore City Council successfully banned ecoATM kiosks, though none were currently available in Baltimore after one was removed from the Mondawmin Mall due to complaints by merchants.

In a statement from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, she said, “Tonight’s vote was a step in the right direction for a safer Baltimore. These machines have been known to attract criminal activity, making it harder for communities to be safe. I support this ban and additional efforts that government and private industry can make to reduce incidents of crime surrounding these machines and to improve technologies that can permanently deactivate a stolen cell phone—making the device obsolete and reducing the incentive for criminals to steal them.”

Though the machines are now illegal in the city, they are still present in surrounding places such as Security Square Mall and Towson Town Center in Baltimore County and Arundel Mills in Anne Arundel County.

District 46 State Delegate Luke Clippinger is pushing for tougher legislation state-wide. He told WBAL TV, “We should make sure that we are not giving people an incentive to commit these crimes by having a really easy way to sell these phones.  If you get a cellphone with this serial number on it, that’s a stolen phone. We have the machine swallow the phone and alert police immediately.”

Readers of Baltimore Brew also voiced their concerns on the rigorous and tedious process of getting a stolen phone back if it is submitted to ecoATM in response to a recent article in the publication.

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
Filed in: Crime, News, Technology
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