Police Promise Rapid Identification Of Stolen Phones


Phone thieves beware, as the police now have the ability to quickly identify stolen mobile phones

Police have been given new technology to allow them to crack down on the ongoing problem of mobile phone theft in the United Kingdom.

Every year in the UK, an estimated 350,000 stolen mobile phones are reported stolen, and in London alone in the past 12 months, a staggering 80,000 incidents of mobile phone theft took place.

And to make matters worse, the police believe this 80,000 number in London is actually much higher, as there can be more than one handset stolen in a particular incident, for instance during thefts from commercial premises.

Quick Identification

But now, thanks to a new faster process for directly accessing the National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR), developed by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), the police will be able to identify stolen handsets within seconds.

The NMPR Register holds descriptions of stolen and lost mobiles and is run by the Metropolitan Police Service. It is currently the only system in the country that allows police officers to identify stolen handsets.

In the past, police officers had to ask their control room to conduct a search of the NMPR to determine whether a handset had been stolen, a process that could often take as long as 20 minutes to conduct.

But NPIA teamed up with IT specialist Recipero to integrate the NMPR register into the Police National Computer (PNC). As more and more police officers are now using smartphones and handheld computers, it means they can access this database whilst out on the beat.

More Efficient Searches

“This is another example of how the NPIA continues to innovate, develop and deliver improvement to the police service to help frontline officers fight crime,” said Tom McArthur, NPIA Director of Operations.

“With tens of thousands of mobiles being stolen every year across the country, mobile phone theft is a significant problem,” he said. “However, by helping forces use the National Mobile Phone Register more efficiently, this improvement should help police officers provide a better service to the public and recover more of their stolen and lost mobile phones.”

It is thought that around 25,000 searches of the register are carried out by officers across the UK every month, with an average match rate of 25 percent. This new development means that easier access to the register will enable more officers to use the service, increasing the chance of more stolen mobiles being identified and returned to their owners.

“For the first time front line officers can now obtain instantaneous results of searches on suspected stolen mobile phones,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Mick McNally of the MPS’ Territorial Policing Command.

Thieves Beware

“The figures of 50,000 plus stolen phones a year being located and identified throughout the UK will further increase with this new Police National Computer facility – it sends a clear message to phone thieves that police and partners can identify stolen mobile phones in the hands of the thief or another individual,” he added.

The issue of mobile phone theft is well recognised. For example, in February 2010 the Home Office unveiled several technologies to combat the problem, including a system that uses contactless communication to authenticate mobile transactions. It said back then that approximately 228 mobile phones were reported stolen in the UK every hour.

And of course, the loss or theft of a mobile phone is usually hugely disruptive to most people and does represent a significant security risk as well, thanks to the growing amount of personal and corporate data these devices hold.

This has led to some pretty inventive ways for users to recover their handsets.

Last month for example, Burnley student James Bird used the ‘Find My iPhone’ app to track down the thief of his stolen iPhone. Bird then chased and confronted the thief on a bus, who returned the stolen handset to Bird.

The thief was later arrested by police.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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