The Baltimore County Council passed a pair of bills Tuesday that ban cell phone reimbursement kiosks (also known as “reverse vending machines” or “automated purchasing machines”) and regulate the stores that purchase small used electronics, such as GameStop, like pawn shops. As reported in the Baltimore Sun:
“The pair of bills, introduced last month by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, is meant to stem the theft of cell phones, which police say is a growing problem in the county. Both measures passed unanimously in a 6-0 vote, with one member absent.
Robberies in the county have increased in recent years, with more than 350 cell phones stolen last year, police say. County police believe the potential for instant cash available at the recycling machines “was a driving force behind many of these crimes,” Chief Jim Johnson said after the meeting.
“We are aware of several robberies where within minutes, the suspect went to the machine,” he said.”
Baltimore County joins the ranks of Baltimore City whose city council banned the machines last year. The kiosks have also grabbed the attention of the General Assembly. As previously reported on Conduit Street, a set of bills has been introduced by the House and Senate to regulate these machines and their operators.
MACo testified in support of House Bill 85, House Bill 338 and House Bill 918 (cross-file Senate Bill 382) but stressed the inclusion of an amendment that the bills do no preempt a local government’s ability to regulate or ban the kiosks. The kiosks raise public safety risk concerns and MACo supports the interest of the police in reducing and solving the associated crime. Individual communities have their interest at stake and the local governments should retain the right exercised by Baltimore city and Baltimore County to follow the wishes of the constituents and prohibit the kiosks within their jurisdiction.