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Years after son was mugged, Emanuel targets stolen cellphones

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday praised the City Council for taking action to reduce cellphone thefts, like the one that targeted his own son, by reducing the value of stolen phones on the "secondary black market." | AP file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will move Wednesday to reduce cellphone thefts, like the one that targeted his own son, by reducing the value of stolen phones on the “secondary black market.”

“Cellphone robberies are a serious threat to public safety and parents’ peace of mind,” Emanuel, whose son was robbed of his cellphone nearly three years ago, was quoted as saying in a press release.

“We can make a difference when we aggressively go after anyone who thinks they can steal a phone to flip a profit. And we can prevent these crimes before they happen.”

Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) said he’s joining forces with the mayor in hopes of making cellphone theft “less attractive by cracking down on the sellers of stolen devices and mandating cross-checks with a database that tracks stolen cellphones.”

In 2014, the City Council mandated cellphone unlocking services to keep records on their customers and devices.

The new crackdown would impose new regulations and strengthen others to make it easier to track stolen cellphones.

It would also tighten the regulatory noose against those who stand to profit from the sale of stolen cellphones — either in stores or on online. Last year, 14,493 phones were reported lost or stolen in Chicago.

The crackdown includes: stepped-up notification requirements; mandatory cross-checks with a data base of stolen cellphones; and holding dealers accountable by suspending their licenses and confiscating stolen cellphones at secondhand dealerships.

The Chicago Police Department also will join forces with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection on investigations that “target and eliminate problematic cellphone dealers,” officials said.

The mugging that fueled the mayor’s anger occurred shortly before midnight on Dec. 19, 2014, just days before Emanuel and his family left on another one of their exotic Christmas vacations — this time to Chile.

It was a particularly poignant trip, since it was Zach Emanuel’s last before going off to college at UCLA.

The mayor has said Zach was talking on a cellphone with a college counselor when he was jumped from behind by two unarmed men.

In a follow-up interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel was open about the anguish he felt after learning about the attack.

“Your most basic instinct as a parent is to protect your child, and there they are only 50 feet away from your house. … You want to protect your children. You also have to give them independence. There’s that inherent conflict,” the mayor said then.

Days before the only arrest in the case, the mayor said, “I’m hoping they find him soon because I’m not sure Miranda rights is something I believe in right now. I say that as a joke.”

The rage the mayor felt about the young men who mugged his son was matched only by the anger he felt when mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti tried to make a campaign issue of what Fioretti claimed at the time was Emanuel’s failure to press charges in the case.

“People’s families are off-limits,” the mayor said then.

Fioretti’s comment was a particularly low blow because it fed a rumor mill that had been swirling about the case and questioning the official account.

At least some of those rumors were fed by 11 police officers subsequently slapped with one-day suspensions for “inappropriately” accessing police reports about the attack, which were also obtained by and released to the news media during the mayoral campaign.