From Cody Telep. Follow him on Twitter @codywt, email him at cody[AT]borderstan.com.
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy Lanier appeared on the TODAY Show last Thursday expressing frustration with the rise in ATMs that allow customers to trade in and recycle used cell phones and other electronics for cash on the spot.
ecoATM is the San Diego-based company that produces the machines and places them in malls and shopping centers across the country. Lanier believes that ecoATMs provide an extra incentive to potential robbers, because the machines offer a quick and easy way to trade in stolen phones for cash.
The company disagrees, arguing that extensive security measures make it difficult to trade in stolen phones. Customers using the machines must be 18-years-old and provide a valid photo identification card that is compared in real-time to a photo taken by the machine. They must also provide a thumbprint.
ecoATM records the serial number of each phone collected and stores them for at least 30 days after collection. Additionally, the company announced Wednesday the creation of an eight-member Law Enforcement Advisory Board, who will provide recommendations on how ecoATM can best partner with police agencies and ensure the machines are not used for reselling stolen goods.
Lanier first argued against the use of ecoATMs on WTOP in February, stating that up to 30 to 35 percent of the phones recycled at ecoATMs are stolen. The company disputes these figures, noting on their website that fewer than five out of every 10,000 phones recycled are stolen.
Lanier said Thursday that MPD believes at least 200 phones stolen in the District have turned up in suburban locations of the machines and that MPD has already made six arrests in these cases. She did commend the company for being very cooperative in law enforcement investigations when a phone believed to be stolen is found deposited in the ATM.
ecoATM currently does not have any machines inside the District, and has not announced any plans to establish a D.C. location. The company formerly operated a machine in Temple Hills, MD at Iverson Mall, but the machine was removed because of a licensing issue. There also was previously a machine in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City that no longer appears on the company’s list of locations.
While there are still a number of ecoATMs in the D.C. metropolitan area, the remaining current locations would not be particularly convenient for District robbers. The closest ATMs are in Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia; St. Charles Towne Center in Waldorf, Maryland; and Potomac Mills in Woodbridge, Virginia.
If your smartphone is lost or stolen, you can have the device remotely disabled by the provider to make it more difficult for the phone to be reused or resold. More information is available from MPD’s “Brick It!” website (DC Announces Initiative Encouraging Victims to Disable Stolen Phones).
DC Police announced Friday that they arrested a suspect in two of the recent string of armed robberies at bank ATMs. Police are trying to determine if he is responsible for additional ATM robberies in the First and Second Police Districts. From MPD:
(Washington, D.C.) – The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating a series of armed robberies of citizens that occurred at ATMs in the First and Second Police Districts. To date, there have been at least 10 similar robberies that may be related. During this investigation detectives identified a suspect in one of the offenses and on May 18, 2010 an arrest warrant was obtained for 44 year old John Fenley Woodland, for the Armed Robbery that occurred on May 5, 2010 in the 600 block of Massachusetts Avenue, NW.
At approximately, 8:20 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 agents of the United States Secret Service were in the 800 block of 17th Street, NW, when they observed a subject committing an armed robbery of a citizen at an ATM. The agents interrupted the robbery and arrested the assailant, who was identified as John Fenley Woodland. Members of the Metropolitan Police Department responded to the scene and immediately recognized the arrested suspect as John Fenley Woodland. Mr. Woodland was charged with two counts of Armed Robbery, as well as an outstanding bench warrant. Detectives are continuing to investigate Woodland’s connection to the other similar offenses.
DC Police in the Second District have issued a lookout and warning on ATM machine robberies. According to Matthew Klein, commander of the Second District, the robberies have occurred in the lower part of the Second District (see map). Check out the MPD flyer with a description and photo of the suspect.
“Over the past several weeks, there were several robberies in the lower part of the Second District in which a lone suspect approaches individuals withdrawing money from ATM machines, and forces them to withdraw additional funds while threatening to harm them. Several of the victims stated the suspect was armed with a knife.”
Here is a police report from last Thursday on an ATM robbery at Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues, which is at Dupont Circle:
“On Thursday, May 13, 2010, at 10:13 p.m., a Robbery/While Armed Knife offense occurred in the area of Massachusetts Ave. and Connecticut Ave., N.W. (PSA 208). The victim reported that while removing money from the ATM, he was approached from behind by a suspect who placed a knife to his side and demanded money. After giving the suspect his money, the suspect ran southbound in the 1300 blk. of New Hampshire Ave. N.W. The suspect is described as a Black/Male with a thin build.”