Shut the Cell Up
users may find themselves saying that more often now that cell phone
jammers - illegal gizmos that interfere with signals and cut off
reception - are selling like hotcakes on the streets of New York.
"I bought one online, and I love it," said one jammer owner fed
up with the din of dumb conversations and rock-and-roll ringtones.
"I use it on the bus
all the time. I always zap the idiots who discuss what they want
from the Chinese restaurant so that everyone can hear them. Why
is that necessary?" He added, "I can't throw the phones out the
window, so this is the next best thing."
Online mobile cell phone jammers seller Victor McCormack said he's
made "hundreds of sales" to New Yorkers. "The interest has gone
insane in the last few years. I get all sorts of people buying them,
from priests to police officers."
Cell Phone Blockers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from
portable handhelds that look like cellphones to larger, fixed models
as big as suitcases. Their sole goal is to zip inconsiderate lips.
The smaller gadgets emit radio frequencies that block signals anywhere
from a 50- to 200-foot radius. They range in price from $250 to
But don't expect to find cell phone blockers at the local Radio
Shack - they're against Federal Communications Commission regulations
because they interfere with emergency calls and the public airwaves.
They are illegal to buy, sell, use, import or advertise.
A violation means an
$11,000 fine, but the FCC's Enforcement Bureau has yet to bust one
person anywhere in the country. "This is not a crime that they're
going after," said Rob Bernstein, deputy editor at New York City-based
He said mobile cell phone jammers are here, and their use is multiplying.
"Right now, there's a growing curiosity about jammers in the United
States and New York," Bernstein said. "There's no better way to
shut up a loudmouth on the phone, so people definitely want them
and are finding ways to get them." One way is at a spy shop on Third
Avenue, which sells medium-sized cell phone signal jammers out of
a back room for $1,500. The sales clerk there said he had sold jammers
to a 50-year-old man who bought one to use on the Long Island Rail
Road, and to restaurateurs.
Folks who run auto auctions also buy them to stop people from chit-chatting
about prices and rigging their bids, the clerk said. An employee
at a West Village spy store said the shop also sells phone jammers,
but only to people from other countries.
One local purchaser bought a portable phone jammer last year, and
said he likes using it at Roosevelt Field mall on Long Island. "One
time I followed this guy around for 20 minutes," he said. "I kept
zapping him and zapping him, until finally he threw the phone on
the floor. I couldn't stop laughing. It was so cool."
Cell Phone Jammers
were first developed to help government security forces avert eavesdropping
and thwart phone-triggered bombings. But by the late 1990s they
were being sold to the public. There are suspicions that some hotel
chains employ cell phone signal jammers to cut down on guests' cellphone
use and boost in-room phone charges.
With additional reporting by Lindsay Powers and Marianne Garvey