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.
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”.
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.
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.
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 .
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