Sen. Brown backs bill against cellphone theft

Sen. Sherrod Brown held a press conference Monday morning at the Youngstown Police Department announcing a new legislation to help combat cellphone theft.

Brown is co-sponsoring a bill that would make tampering with a smartphone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number a felony.

According to Brown, The Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2013 would impose a maximum jail sentence of five years for criminals who tamper with IMEIs. These numbers help officers track cellular devices.

“Too many Mahoning Valley citizens have been targeted for crime, just because of the phone in their pocket or purse,” Brown said. “With so much of this criminal activity fueled by the black market, this legislation will crack down on cell phone theft and impose severe consequences on thieves who will think twice before trying to make a quick buck.”

Capt. Jason Simon, YPD chief, said he agreed with Brown. 

“The Youngstown Police Department is committed to combating crime within our community,” Simon said. “As technology becomes more advanced and more a part of our everyday lives, we must utilize every tool at our disposal to ensure that criminals who violate the laws are punished appropriately.”

 The bill has the full support of CTIA, the Wireless Association, who collaborated with the Federal Communication Commission to implement a national IMEI database.

Brown was joined alongside Cassie Mosure-Oles, Youngstown State University alumna, who had her Samsung Galaxy smartphone stolen from her purse while cheerleading at Beeghly Center in 2011.

Mosure-Oles said Brown’s legislation is an “awesome idea” to help combat crime in the Mahoning Valley.

“It was such a horrible feeling to know someone had my phone,” Mosure-Oles said. “I also felt extremely violated knowing some stranger had all my information that was private in my phone. I did everything on my phone including email, looking up information, texting friends and family and calling. I wasn’t able to do that anymore, and it was such an inconvenience. Having my phone stolen was a horrible experience that I would never want anyone else to go through.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of the adult population now owns a cellphone, and 56 percent of all American adults currently own a smartphone.

While Simon stated there “hundreds are stolen in Youngstown every year,” only four cellphone thefts have reported to Youngstown State University Police Department.

Lt. Shawn Varso, YSUPD officer, said that while cellphone theft may be low on campus, he advised students to be careful with their belongings.

“Where there’s property, there’s going to be an opportunity for theft. If students leave something in the library, they should try to be more attentive of their surroundings,” he said.