City makes the call on cell phone ordinance

Council proposes five-day waiting period before used cellphones can be resold

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Gary Crusader staff report

Gary wants to place business owners on hold for five days if they want to resell a used cellphone.

While business owners don’t like the idea, Gary officials wants to make sure that buyers aren’t making a bad connection.

The Common Council’s public safety committee on Tuesday, February 23, amended a proposed ordinance that would give police more time to study used cellphones before they are resold.

The proposed ordinance in Gary aims to stop people who steal cellphones and try to resell them. The proposal initially called for allowing police to wait three days before they wipe clean the memory and data of a used cellphone.

At Tuesday’s meeting, safety officials extended the waiting period to five days, saying more time was needed to allow police to determine whether the cellphone is stolen or for the original owners to find them.

City Attorney Gregory Thomas said Gary Police Department officials also wanted the extra time to review used cellphones to see if any potential evidence they might offer toward ongoing criminal investigations.

The full Common Council will give a final vote on the ordinance on Tuesday, March 2.

The ordinance would require anyone trying to sell a used cellphone to produce a driver’s license or state identification card. Used cellphone buyers would be required to take a picture of the device and record its mobile equipment identifier, international mobile station equipment identity or electronic serial number.

The information would then have to be provided to the Gary Police Department on a daily basis. Officials from state or a federal law enforcement agency are also entitled to the information.

Businesses who violate the proposed ordinance could face fines between $500-$2,500 in Gary City Court, with repeat offenders facing fines of up to $7,500.

Hammond passed a similar ordinance last year.

Police Chief Larry McKinley also said the longer waiting period could increase the chances that cellphones reported stolen could be found and returned to their original owners.

“We want it to be cumbersome,” said Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th. “It should be more difficult to steal a phone and gain access to it.”

At the meeting, Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell, D-5th, was more comfortable with a longer waiting period. She said that police expressed concerns that a three-day waiting period was not sufficient time.

Councilwoman Ragen Hatcher, D-At large, said he was concerned whether the fines served a purpose. Despite some reservations, Hatcher still supported the ordinance.

McKinley believes the ordinance would help cut down on cellphone thefts, which are a major problem in Gary. McKinley did not provide any statistics on cellphone thefts.

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