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SPECIAL REPORT: Cell Phone Thefts Increasing

Updated: Wednesday, May 1 2013, 02:21 PM EDT
COLUMBUS (Steve Levine) -- Cell phone thefts are on the rise in central Ohio, and loopholes in state law could be one reason crooks are targeting the electronic devices.

In the past, if a thief stole a cell phone worth more than $500, the crime was a felony. That changed 18 months ago, when lawmakers reduced the severity of the crime, making it a misdemeanor if the phone is worth less than $1,000.

“No good street cop ever wants to look at a citizen and say 'I am sorry I cannot help you,'” says Columbus Police Lt. Robert Strausbaugh.

But that’s what is now happening.  Because many of the thefts are now classified as misdemeanors, police cannot obtain search warrants if they are able to track the phone to a building with multiple units, like an apartment or office building.

Many victims are not aware of the law's limitations.

“You have so much information, information worth more than the cell phone," a phone theft victim told ABC 6/FOX 28. "Your whole life is basically on the cell phone."

Some police and politicians are now “Fighting Back” on behalf of victims, pushing for a law what would make all electronic device thefts a felony.

“People can steal your information from off your iPad, or phone. That’s not covered in the law right now,” State Senator Jim Hughes said.SPECIAL REPORT: Cell Phone Thefts Increasing

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