A MOVING TARGET: Met Police starts awareness campaign of mobile theft

London’s Metropolitan Police have launched a leafletting campaign aimed at preventing people from becoming victims of mobile theft. The theft of smartphones in particular is steadily on the rise in London, with some phones selling for as little as £50 on the black market. Stolen phones have been sent abroad to be sold onward, making them more difficult to trace and block.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind
(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

One of the crime prevention leaflets distributed by Met police cadets at Stratford’s bus station.

According to the BBC’s news division in London, an estimated 314 mobile phones are stolen on the streets every day, with iPhone models especially vulnerable to being taken.  Figures for earlier this year showed an astonishing 9,751 phones were lifted in December 2012 alone, with iPhones making up 50% of all stolen handsets. A stolen iPhone can easily be sold on by gangs for £250.

Phones are usually taken from victims’ pockets or bags by pickpockets working in specialised gangs who  prey on unsuspecting commuters travelling in London’s buses and Tube networks. Increasingly however, younger robbers armed with little more than a mountain bike will snatch mobiles from the hands of people using them to make calls on public pathways. Street robberies, where victims are threatened with violence to hand over mobiles and valuables, are declining as would-be thieves turn to quick snatch-and-grabs which incur less severe legal penalties. The spate of roadside robberies has become so commonplace that a local newspaper reported that thieves were seeking out fashionable high-value phones in what the newspaper described as the new variant of mobile theft: “apple-picking” and “blackberry-picking”.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

iPhones are highly prized by mobile phone thieves.

In Newham, east London, the Met stationed junior police cadets at strategic locations inside Stratford Bus Station late on Friday evening to hand out special leaflets to commuters heading on nights out. The bus station is only a short walking distance from both the Westfield Shopping Mall and Stratford’s London Underground Station, busy hotspots highly attractive to phone thieves.

English: Stratford Bus Station - June 2009
English: Stratford Bus Station – June 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Newham, among other places, the Met have distributed handy leaflets with simple, useful advice for people to keep their phones from being stolen.

The Met Police’s leaflets aim to get people thinking about the safety of themselves and their valuables. Each leaflet advises the reader to avoid tempting mobile phone thieves and to be aware when making a call. The leaflets also are printed with the following helpful information, which has been reproduced for a wider audience here :-

*When using your phone in public places, like shopping centres, parks or concerts, be aware of activity around you. Thieves will use crowded places as cover to steal phones and make a quick getaway in the resulting confusion.

*Avoid leaving your handset unattended on tables in places like restaurants, pubs and cafes. An opportunistic thief can very easily pocket the handset and leave the premises undetected.

*When leaving a Tube or Overground station, do not start making calls straightaway. Let the person on the other end of the line wait a few minutes before making or returning a call.

*Do not walk and text at the same time. Apart from putting you at risk of injury, the distraction of texting also leaves you vulnerable to would-be thieves passing by on foot or bike.

*If you really need to make a call in a public place, try and keep the conversation as brief as possible. The longer you talk, the more likely it is you will attract the attention of a thief. Robbers have been known to scope out and keep an eye on potential victims, following them to quieter places where they can carry out their crime away from witnesses.

*If you do have your phone stolen, report it to your service provider (network or carrier) as soon as possible so they can block the phone and prevent re-use. This is also important if your phone goes missing or lost.

*Also report the theft at your nearest police station and contact your phone insurance provider if you have taken out protection insurance on the handset.

The Met’s leaflet further offers advice on making your phone less attractive to criminals. You can use etching equipment or an ultra-violet pen to mark your house number and postcode on the cover of the phone. Register your phone with Immobilise, the UK’s national property register (www.immobilise.com) which is supported by police forces and insurance companies. Registration with them is free of charge.

Each phone carries a unique 15 digit numerical code known as an IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. You can easily find out your phone’s IMEI by entering *#06# into the keypad. On most models a pop-up window will flash up on-screen with the IMEI. Alternatively on some older models, the IMEI is printed on the battery label. Simply make a note of this number and keep it in a safe place. Registering the IMEI with your network provider will make it easier for the phone to be barred across any network in the event of a theft.

Deutsch: IMEI eines Mobiltelefons
Deutsch: IMEI eines Mobiltelefons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have any information on any crime, and you would prefer not to speak to police you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit their website: www.crimestoppers-uk.org . Crimestoppers is a charity independent of any police force.

In an emergency dial 999. For all other non-urgent enquiries, please use the non-emergency number 101, or you can visit the Met Police’s website at www.met.police.uk/crimeprevention .

RELATED NEWS from Zemanta

“314 mobile phones ‘stolen in London every day'” – BBC News London (15 January 2013) LINK
“Preventing Personal Theft – Don’t Make Your Mobile A Moving Target” – Metropolitan Police (leaflet)

16 thoughts on “A MOVING TARGET: Met Police starts awareness campaign of mobile theft

  1. I agree with what you said about the iPhones, they’re an easy target for thieves to steal, and are easily stolen and sold for £250 or more. Overall a really excellent point worth highlighting.

    iPhones are always the norm for thieves these days, but I agree mostly with the whole post, as it points out all the problems with stolen phones today. A fantastic eye-opening post.


    1. Very true observation…people have to realise that carrying around a smartphone is like carrying around a large wad of cash.
      No-one in their right mind would wave around a wad of £50 notes in public, so we should extend that mentality to our mobiles.
      I hope this article will help mobile phone users exercise caution and prevent themselves going through such a tramatic and heartbreaking experience.

      Thanks for your comment,. Alex 🙂

      – HalfEatenMind


      1. You’re welcome, this post will help others realise what they should and shouldn’t do with this.

        There is a perfect example to this post:

        A person buys a normal brick phone, for example – A Nokia 3310 would cost around £20.00 and it doesn’t get nicked as easily.

        Another member of the public could buy an iPhone 5S for £549 or a BlackBerry Z10 for £289.99, it is extremely certain that it will be nicked within the day the person buys it.

        I mean, the point you mentioned about a person waving £50 notes in public is a perfect example, because anyone could be threatened at knife-point or gun-point to hand the money over.

        Again, thank you for liking my comment and the post of Hurricane St Jude, I really appreciated it :-).


      2. I guess the only way to frustrate the robbers and keep ourselves safe, is for everyone to sell off their branded phones and buy Nokia 3310S en masse. That will teach those light-fingered crooks lol.

        You are very welcome. My pleasure.

        – HalfEatenMind


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  3. Talking about stolen phone, my bro’s new phone got stolen in Las Vegas, just right in front of him when he placed it on the table while they sat around the table.

    Now, he has to switch to iphone because instead of an android since it is free (given by his company) and he had just bought that new phone.


    1. Oh dear, he must be considerably angry. I don’t know how it works in Nevada, but he should definitely put a report in with the police.
      The culprit needs some jail time.

      – HalfEatenMind


      1. To think he and baby sis had queued up for almost 6 hours for that phone on its launching day and having it stolen after only a few months? Hmmm….do we need to guess how he has felt? LOL…


      2. Hmm…not sure who will be the lucky one if my brother did catch hold of him…anything can happen in Vegas…anyway, just glad that he is fine…hehe…


      3. Thank goodness he is okay, but it must be said that sometimes that infamous rule of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” just needs to be broken lol
        All the best for your brother and his new phone 🙂



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