Met Police Moves In As Mobile Phone Thefts Hit 7000 A Month

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Met Police launches campaign to raise awareness of the risk of mobile phone theft in London

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has urged Londoners to take better care of their mobile phones, claiming 7,000 handsets are stolen every month in the capital, with iPhones accounting for 80 percent of thefts with 5,600 stolen each month.

The MPS has lent its support to the ‘Love your Phone’ initiative, which was launched by the Clapham Grand nightclub, and has asked businesses to display posters raising awareness of phone theft which will also be posted in town centres.

While total crime in London is decreasing, including personal robbery, theft remains a continuing challenge for the Met, with offences rising by 9.9 percent in the past 12 months.

Mobile phone theft

iMessage iPhoneAnother MPS initiative, Operation Ringtone, has enjoyed success in five London boroughs since it was launched in February, reducing crime by 9.5 percent and resulting in around 2020 fewer victims. It will also be rolled out to all 32 London boroughs as the force continues its efforts.

“The way we interact with our smartphones has changed,” says MPS Commander Christine Jones. “We now involve them in our social encounters through the increased use of social media. We use them to ‘check ourselves in’ at a location, take a photo, or by looking something up as a result of the conversation. Therefore we tend to keep our phones in our hand or left on the table for quick access.

“People are naturally distracted in busy environments, such as cafés, bars and pubs so we are working with the owners, giving crime prevention advice and information about local criminals to help them keep their customers safe and keep the thieves out.

“We would also ask the public to take extra care of their valuables. Many of the thefts are taking place during the day in shops and cafes but at night the problem moves to bars and nightclubs.”

Government action

The Met says it will target theft hotspots with increased patrols and warns it will use all actionable intelligence and technology at its disposal to bring offenders to justice. London boroughs will also work with local businesses to help their customers and will give residents advice on how to protect themselves.

Last month, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson called on a number of leading smartphone manufacturers to create an industry standard ‘kill switch’ in their devices that would deactivate the handset and deter would-be thieves.

The UK government has made a number of attempts to control the rise of mobile phone theft, but these have so far failed to reduce rising numbers. Recycling firms have agreed to a code of practice designed to prevent criminals from selling them stolen mobile phones, while police are able to identify stolen handsets using the National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR).

Apple currently has a GPS-enabled system called ‘Find My iPhone’ that allows a lost or stolen iPhone to be located. However, the app must be activated before it leaves the user’s possession.

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