D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier continued on Tuesday to target the resale of cellphones and warned businesses that traffic in stolen mobile devices to watch out for the authorities.
The chief said some businesses are reselling the phones overseas, bypassing a national database that she worked hard to establish to help track phones on the black market.
Speaking on her monthly program on NewsChannel 8, Lanier once again singled out a California-based company called ecoATM, which allows people to recycle their used cellphones and smartphones through a kiosk in suburban malls and get instant cash.
The company has said there are many safeguards in place to deter criminals and to help police track stolen phones, but on Tuesday Lanier renewed her earlier criticisms, saying company representatives have not cooperated fully with her office. She said a person recently “dropped 22 phones in 30 days” at a ecoATM kiosk outside Washington, and got about $2,000 in cash.
“This is not somebody cleaning out their kitchen drawers,” Lanier said on the show.
The issue of businesses supporting cellphone thefts got new attention last week when D.C. council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), tweeted from a private police meeting that GameStop was under scrutiny for its resale of phones. He said two stores in Southeast and Northeast Washington had hundreds of phones, many most likely stolen.
But on Tuesday Lanier described GameStop, which had denied the allegation, as one of the more responsible businesses. She said store officials are cooperating by holding second-hand phones longer before reselling them to give police time to check out theft reports, and are considering no longer giving cash for the exchanges.
“GameStop is working with us,” Lanier said. “Some folks are not.”
Wells had vowed to introduce emergency legislation on Tuesday to give the mayor the power to temporarily close businesses found selling stolen cellphones. But The Washington Post’s City Hall reporter, Tim Craig, reports that Wells pulled back the emergency bill after deciding to work with the mayor’s office on permanent legislation, which he introduced Tuesday.