A D.C. Council member wants police to be able to shutdown businesses that create a cash market for stolen cellphones.
“This is a clear and present danger to the city of Washington,” Council member Tommy Wells said.
Wells, chair of the Council's Public Safety Committee and considering a run for mayor, said too many of his constituents are being robbed and even seriously injured by people who want to steal their smartphones. He plans to introduce a bill that would allow the mayor to close a business found to be buying or selling stolen cellphones for cash.
“They’ll have the right to appeal that decision in 72 hours,” Wells said. “Very similar to when a restaurant is shut down for health code violations or when a bar is found to have a violent crime occurred. The police can shut them down.”
Despite an intense police effort and dozens of arrests, such robberies are up in some areas.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has pushed numerous measures to stop robberies by eliminating profit, but she declined an interview about Wells's Feb. 9 tweet in which he named two D.C. locations of a national video game chain, saying they were, "... found to have 100s of used cell phones. All likely stolen from DC residents, #unbelievable."
Lanier released a statement to News4 that said, "The Metropolitan Police Department works closely with retailers and local businesses to ensure they are not unknowingly purchasing stolen items."