By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia city councilwoman is backing off on a proposed citywide ban on machines that dispense cash on the spot for used cell phones.

READ MORE: 2 Police Officers Shot During Fourth Of July Festivities On Ben Franklin Parkway: Police

Instead, she is now proposing that any new machines must first be approved by the city.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown fears that the cash-for-cellphone kiosks would prompt a rise in thefts of mobile phones.   It was one year ago that a City Council committee approved her plan to ban the machines outright, as the city of Baltimore has done.

But Reynolds Brown never called for a final vote as she negotiated a compromise with Eco-ATM, the firm that already has two such machines at the Philadelphia Mills mall (formerly the Franklin Mills Mall).  And now, the councilwoman has announced a deal:

“The good news is that we have reached a compromise.  We’ve decided not to ban.   ‘Ban’ is a bad word,” she said today.

Under the compromise, an outright ban on the machines is dropped; instead, the measure would require City Council approval for any new installations of similar machines.

“(That approval) keeps us in the loop, in the conversation, in the process, in case any company wants to bring more of those machines to the city.  And it gives the local community a say as well,” Reynolds Brown said.


(An EcoATM cell phone buyback machine being demonstrated at the 2013 annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in Philadelphia.   Photo by Mike Dunn)

(An Eco-ATM cell phone buyback machine being demonstrated at the 2013 annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in Philadelphia. Photo by Mike Dunn)


The two machines currently in use would be given retroactive approval under the revised legislation.

Eco-ATM’s local spokesman, Kevin Feeley, praised Reynolds Brown for working toward a compromise.

READ MORE: With Hints Of Yellow In Sea Of Red, White And Blue, Montgomery County Town Honors Ukrainian Refugees

“We’ve developed this compromise having worked with her and her staff for many months.  And we’re very pleased that City Council will allow the machines to continue to operate in Philadelphia,” he said.

During last year’s hearings on the original proposal, officials with Eco-ATM argued that the machines impose security precautions for each cell phone buyback — including a thumbprint, multiple photographs, and a scan of the seller’s photo ID. Eco-ATM adds that the data is readily turned over to authorities.

Reynolds Brown, though, remains convinced that the machines would boost cell phone theft.

“We have evidence to suggest that there’s an uptick in crime rate, in terms of young people stealing phones and then going to get immediate cash,” she said.  Reynolds Brown later called KYW Newsradio to clarify that she was referring to evidence that was not local, but national and anecdotal.

Feeley, the Eco-ATM spokesman, disputes her claim.

“There is no evidence — locally, nationally, anywhere — to suggest that these machines from Eco-ATM cause or increase incidents of cell phone theft,” he said.

But the fear of rising phone thefts is shared by local universities, according to Reynolds Brown, who noted that the University of Pennsylvania was actively involved in the year-long negotiations:

“We know that the greatest (number of) incidents occur on university campuses.  So they had a large voice in this.”

The councilwoman says she is relieved that more than a year of grappling with the issue, a deal has been reached.

“We’re at a far better than where we were 18 months ago,” she said today.  “We’re not where we ultimately wanted to be.  But we know that, in this process, it’s about compromise.”

The amendment that embodies the compromise was approved by the full City Council today, and the revised measure is likely to come up for a final vote on October 9th.


MORE NEWS: 2 People In Custody After Apparent Road Rage Shooting In Old City, Police Say