Would registering prepaid phone help deter crime? posted by Joe on April 14th, 2010 - 7:30 am | Consumer Issues
In America, prepaid phones are notorious for their freewheeling nature. There are no contracts or credit checks, so customers can pick up one at a retail outlet, activate it, and use it for years with relative anonymity. This makes it convenient for users who might not have credit, but also makes it easy for criminals to abuse the privilege. We’ve seen proposals for how to curb this, but none of them seem close to reality. In Mexico, however, it’s a different story. Last year their government passed a law requiring prepaid phone users to register their accounts. This was a reaction to reports of prepaid phones aiding criminals. Will the U.S. follow?
Dawn Kawamoto at DailyFinance asks the same question in a recent article. She notes that a few states have tried to pass such legislation. It’s not as easy as just voting on a new law, though. There are logistical issues that could make such a system difficult. A number of states have seen this in effect when passing laws requiring prepaid users to pay 911 fees. There is still no mechanism in place to assess that fee for internet purchases.
These logistical issues will probably cause further delay in states adopting prepaid registration measures. Yet this doesn’t address the foremost question. Will registration make a significant impact on crime? I can’t answer that, but state legislators should look deeply into the matter before they consider any legislation. If inconveniencing millions of innocent users produces only a marginal effect, is that really worth it?