Shut The Cell Up New York Post Online Edition: news

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February 20, 2005 -- Can you hear me now?

Unsuspecting cellphone users may find themselves saying that more often now that cellphone 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 jammer 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."

Jammers 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 $2,000.

But don't expect to find jammers at the local Radio Shackl 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 Sync magazine.

He said 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 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 Railroad, 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 jammers, but only to people from other countries.

One local purchaser bought a portable 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."

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 jammers to cut down on guests' cellphone use and boost in-room phone charges.

With additional reporting by Lindsay Powers and Marianne Garvey

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