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Cellphone theft bill revived by Rep. Eliot Engel

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) speaks with reporters

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) speaks with reporters during a news conference in Mexico City. (Feb. 18, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

A year after the Federal Communications Commission declared a cellphone theft "epidemic," Rep. Eliot Engel has reintroduced a bill that would require carriers to cut off service to devices reported stolen.

The Democrat, who represents Yonkers, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle in Westchester County and parts of the Bronx, resubmitted the bill in the House last week after it died in committee last year.

In April 2012, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski declared that about 40 percent of robberies in New York City and other major cities involve cellphones and declared an initiative to educate users in the value of using passwords and security apps to help blunt the crime wave.

With Apple's iPhones among the most popular targets, the crime has been dubbed "Apple picking."

"If service is cut off on a stolen phone, it just becomes a useless brick and the motivation to threaten, or commit violence, to steal a phone goes away," Engel said in a statement. "By cutting off service, wireless companies will do wonders for public safety, and I am confident they will support this legislation."

The legislation would:

• Require carriers to create a shared blacklist with the ID number of each stolen device

• Bar all carriers from providing service to a device on the list

• Make it illegal to alter the ID number, known as the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity

• Order carriers to develop technology that would let customers remotely wipe their data from stolen phones.

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