News Column

Kamenetz wants to ban cell-phone kiosks, regulate electronics sales

January 30, 2014

By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun



Jan. 30--Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz today unveiled legislation that would ban automated cell-phone purchasing kiosks and regulate dealers of second-hand electronic devices.

The measures are meant to target the growing problem of cell phone theft, Kamenetz said at a press conference in Towson, where he was joined by Police Chief Jim Johnson and other county officials.

One bill would ban the kiosks often called "reverse vending machines," which are located in malls and let users receive cash for used phones and other small electronic devices. The other bill would regulate stores such as GameStop that buy used phones, making them follow rules similar to those of pawnshops and secondhand metal dealers.

Among other regulations, the stores would need a county license to sell used electronics and would have to report daily transactions to the county police department. They also would prohibit dealers from paying a seller in cash. They could use checks or other traceable methods of payment, Kamenetz said.

"We're taking cash out of the equation here," Kamenetz said. "As the police know, for a criminal, cash is king."

Officials with GameStop's corporate headquarters could not immediately be reached for comment.

A spokesman for ecoATM, which operates the automated purchasing machines, said the company feels it has been unfairly targeted by politicians.

Company spokesman Ryan Kuder said the firm fully cooperates with law enforcement and has taken a number of steps to make the transactions safe. The machines photograph the person selling a device, and require a thumbprint and valid ID.

The San Diego-based company is already working with Maryland lawmakers to address phone theft, and believes statewide legislation is a better approach than "patchwork" local laws, Kuder said.

He has previously said that out of 21,000 devices recycled in Baltimore County since April, police have asked about 42, but not all were found to be stolen.

Earlier this month, General Growth Properties said it would remove ecoATMs from its malls in Maryland. The machines remain in two Baltimore County malls owned by other companies -- Security Square Mall and Eastpoint Mall.

alisonk@baltsun.com

twitter.com/aliknez

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Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)


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