CHICAGO — On an average day in Chicago, 39 cellphones are reported stolen to police.
That’s more than 14,000 stolen phones a year.
The Chicago Police Department, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, provided details on 22,848 reported cellphone thefts in Chicago between Jan. 1, 2016, and Aug. 15, 2017.
During that period there were 22,848 cases of cellphone thefts in the city, 14,238 of which occurred during the full year after Aug. 16, 2016.
The Loop has been the site of 1,168 reported cellphone thefts over the course of the year.
More than 200 of those occurred during the four-day Lollapalooza festival, which is usually the time of year when the most cellphone thefts are reported.
Of the cellphone thefts since 2016, 38 percent have occurred on a street, sidewalk or alley. Places where people live account for 20 percent of thefts.
“Cellphone thefts are treated similarly to other property thefts, with the exception that technology can sometimes assist detectives in locating the devices under certain circumstances,” Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
In August, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring every cellphone peddler in the city to show a receipt verifying that the phone had been checked against a stolen phone database to make sure it doesn’t match.
Guglielmi said the move has helped stem the sale of cellphones at secondary retailers and “removes a significant funding source for gang activity with a goal of reducing the number of cellphone thefts.”
Dennis Roberson, vice provost at the Illinois Institute of Technology and chairman of the Federal Communications Commission’s Technological Advisory Council, which advises the agency on how to deal with cellphone thefts, said the city’s ordinance is a start.
“It makes it a little harder. You have to go all the way to Gary, Ind., to sell it instead of a street corner,” Roberson said. “But those people aren’t selling it on the street corner anyway. It’s going up the chain.”
Roberson said that after a phone is stolen it can be resold in several different ways, depending on its condition and whether the original owner locked it with passcodes and other measures.
“Organized crime is very much involved in this,” Roberson said. “There’s a criminal world. A chain.”
In some cases, the phones are shipped overseas and used there.
Others end up on eBay where they can be sold for hundreds of dollars.
Stolen phones also often are sold for parts, or even ground up into their basic materials.
Cellphone theft sometimes leads to identity theft if the victim stores important information on the device, Roberson said.
While Roberson said thieves can always find at least some value from a stolen phone, he agreed with Chicago police who said that Apple’s Find My iPhone or AndroidLost can make theft less attractive by locking out other users.