City Bans Automated Cell Phone Purchase Machines


To address the significant number of cell phone robberies occurring in the City of Oakland, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney introduced an ordinance to ban Automated Purchasing Machines.

These self-operating buy-back kiosks, which exist in five Bay Area cities, purchase cell phones, tablets, and MP3 players from individuals and distribute cash on the spot.

The company then sells the phones overseas or recycles the parts, pending on the quality of the device.

“In 2013, there were 3,390 cell phone robberies in the City of Oakland,” said McElhaney. “Something must be done to deter crimes of opportunity and to deter companies from profiteering from crime.”

Nationwide, many stolen cell phones have been purchased from Automated Purchasing Machines, due to the security loopholes that cannot be prevented by a machine.

TV news anchors from The Today Show, law enforcement investigators from throughout the country, and even Councilmember McElhaney’s own staff have tested the security of the machines by selling electronic devices with drivers licenses that did not match the seller of the device. These transactions were processed and the sellers earned quick cash from the machines for cell phones that did not belong to them.

“Cell phone robberies wound our public image, deter economic development, and – most tragically – harm our residents. People are being beaten and even

Lynette Gibson McElhaney
Lynette Gibson McElhaney

killed over cell phones and that needs to stop,” said McElhaney.

Oakland will follow cities like Baltimore, Maryland and Riverside, California, which banned Automated Purchase Machines in 2013.

The ban was unanimously supported at the July 15 City Council Meeting and will go into effect immediately.

The environmental impact discarded electronic devices is negative because they contain mercury, lead, and arsenic that can leach into drinking water and pollute the soil.

Councilmember McElhaney is encouraging residents to donate their e-waste for recycling rather than throw devices in the trash. Local drop-off sites for e-waste include Goodwill, Best Buy, and Office Depot.


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