in Security

Mayor and Met Commissioner meet mobile phone firms to design out smartphone thefts

Posted 17 October 2023

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Mark Rowley, will today convene a landmark meeting with world-leading mobile phone companies to ask them to commit to designing out mobile phone robbery.

Image courtesy The Met

Apple, Samsung and Google are just some of the leading mobile manufacturers that will be represented in the milestone meeting at City Hall which will include representatives from major UK mobile phone network providers.

The meeting will focus on how the police, City Hall and the mobile phone industry can work better together to find the most effective deterrent and ultimately significantly reduce mobile phone robberies in London and beyond.

It follows a call to action from the Mayor of London and Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley in August for the mobile phone industry to play their part and 'deliver bold and innovative technological solutions' to help tackle the rising number of robberies and thefts in the capital.

Figures show criminal demand for the latest devices continues to rise. In the last 12 months there has been a 28% increase in mobile phone robbery in London and a 22% increase in theft of mobile phones. This represents a total of 57,174 mobile phones reported stolen and equates to an average of 157 mobile phones stolen every day in London.

The Met continues its dedicated work to pursue perpetrators and target mobile phone crime hotspots. However, the Mayor and the Commissioner agree there is more that can be done to prevent mobile phone theft by making it harder for stolen phones to be re-used and registered for services not just on phone networks but also for services provided by Apple, Google Play, Samsung and other online stores.

Existing security measures, including pin, fingerprint and facial ID, are not deterring criminals from stealing mobile phones which remain in high demand and are being sold and re-used in a lucrative underground criminal market. And the release of new more expensive mobile phones is having an impact on the increase in robberies and thefts in London and across the UK.

A number of options will be discussed by leading industry, technological and policing experts at today’s meeting, which will also focus on the evolving nature of mobile phone theft and ask for commitments to work to look at options that will make it substantially harder for phones to be broken up for parts abroad. It will also seek to counter the growing menace of identity fraud whereby criminals steal the digital identity of victims and use it to access electronic payment apps, bank accounts and other personal information.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Today we’ve convened leading representatives from the mobile phone industry to design out the theft and robbery of mobile phones and ultimately make London safer for everyone.

“This meeting is an important milestone to developing a practical and long-term solution to ending the menace of mobile phone crime which we know is driving violence and criminality in our communities - not just in London but across the UK.

“Right now, it is far too easy and profitable for criminals to repurpose and sell on stolen phones. That must change and is why, alongside strengthening neighbourhood policing and record investment in supporting the police to go after the worst offenders, the Commissioner and I are now working closely with mobile phone industry to develop innovative and technological solutions that make a stolen phone far less desirable and usable by thieves.”

Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said: “Current mobile phone operating systems make it far too easy for criminals to steal devices, re-register them, and sell them on. This fuels a highly lucrative and profitable criminal market across the capital, and is central to the rise in thefts, robbery and violent offending we’ve seen over the last two years.

“We remain focused on driving down violence in all its forms. We’re rebuilding neighbourhood policing, using data and tech to target hotspots and arresting criminals responsible for brazenly stealing phones from the hands of Londoners every day. Just this weekend we made multiple arrests and seized more than 70 stolen phones at a shop selling them onwards.

“But until we design out the ability for phones to be used in the way they currently are, we will be stuck in a vicious circle. Key mobile phone players have a huge part to play in crushing this criminal market, and this meeting is a really important step forward, but we have to move quickly. Over the last six months more than 26,000 phones have been stolen from Londoners. We can’t wait another six months to take action.”

The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, said: “Today is a really important opportunity for real collaboration between the police, mobile phone companies and the mobile phone manufacturers in our efforts to tackle smartphone robbery.

“Using the latest technical advances, we want to establish universal security measures that are not just an opt-in, but come as standard and are fail-safe – making smartphone crime far less lucrative for potential offenders.

“These crimes often cause untold psychological, physical and financial harms to phone owners. But with the support of the industry giants we can start to design-out and prevent these robberies across the capital and beyond.”

Aleyne Johnson, Director of Government and External Relations at Samsung UK, said: “Samsung has been working closely with the Mayor’s Office, the Met Police and authorities in London on the issue of mobile phone theft and related crimes. We are joining the Mayoral roundtable and look forward to discussing existing and potential new solutions to help combat this complex issue and improve the safety of mobile phone users. We encourage all of our customers to protect their device by setting up the security and privacy features, like ‘lock screen’, to use the latest security updates and please go to: What to do if your Samsung phone is lost or stolen & How to find it | Samsung UK for help in the event your device is lost or stolen.”

Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive Mobile UK said: “Mobile Operators and the Device and Operating System manufacturers have several capabilities and measures to deter the theft of mobile phones, including the provision of capabilities which customers can enable, allowing them to track and disable mobile handsets. We welcome today’s roundtable to discuss with the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police further actions, including prioritising mobile theft and prosecutions to deter and reduce these crimes.”





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