Gary gets tougher on used cellphones

Council passes law to require longer wait times to wipe out device’s memory before selling them

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Businesses in Gary will have a harder time trying to sell used cell phones after the Gary Common Council passed a ordinance that requires a longer waiting period before selling the device.

Before the ordinance, businesses had to wait three days before they could wipe out a used cellphone’s memory prior to it being sold. On Tuesday, March 1, the City Council passed an ordinance that extended the waiting period to five days, which will allow police time to fully examine the used cellphones. Police check the phones to see if it has been used in any criminal activity or if the device was stolen. Council members also said the longer period allows original owners more time to claim their lost cell phones.

Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade (D-6th) said the ordinance was needed. Sparks-Wade said she has lost cellphones and users can feel violated if their devices were sold after they were stolen or lost.

Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt, D-1st, said she approved the measure because, “it will make it more difficult for someone to sell a phone they have stolen.”

The bill was originally sponsored by Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell, (D-5th).

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 forwarded to the Gary Police Department on a daily basis. Officials from state or federal law enforcement agencies 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 up to $7,500.

Hammond passed a similar ordinance last year, but that law requires a 24-hour waiting period before a cellphone’s memory can be wiped clean.

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

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

 

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