Hammond Fights Cell Phone Theft With New Ordinance

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The Hammond Common Council on Monday, December 14, 2015 unanimously passed an Ordinance which creates a new section of Chapter 118 of the Hammond Municipal Code which in effect treats cellular phone stores who accept, unlock and “wipe” used cellular phones, identical to pawn shops that operate in the City of Hammond. Council President Michael Opinker stated that the ordinance was “a long time coming,” and that “this ordinance should have been implemented years ago.” Mayor McDermott encouraged the passage of the Ordinance stating that “individuals, especially those under the age of 18, are easily able to steal a phone, take it to a cellular store, sell it, have it unlocked and “wiped” before the owner is aware of its theft.” The Ordinance as passed by the Council this month will make that “far more difficult” and the Mayor encourages other municipalities in Lake County to adopt similar Ordinances as soon as possible to cut down on cellular phone thefts.

Under the newly adopted Ordinance, cellular phone stores that accept, unlock and “wipe” phones for re-sale must have a license to operate in Hammond and must obtain identification from the individual bringing in the devices, must photograph the item being brought in, must submit identifying information for the device under the “leads on line” program and must not “wipe” the device for 24 hours. Minors under this ordinance will be prohibited from bringing in a device for sale without a parent or legal guardian present. Businesses that violate the Ordinance will lose the right to operate in the City.

Chief of Police John Doughty stated “With the rise in cell phone thefts and often the violence associated with this illegal activity, we feel the ordinance will greatly increase the police department’s ability to recover the stolen property and identify the offenders. It is our ultimate goal to deter the thefts.” The 24 hour hold time will allow the Hammond Police to determine if a cellular device has been reported stolen.