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Met Commissioner and Mayor of London call on industry to help reduce phone thefts

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, yesterday called on the mobile phone industry to play their part and 'deliver bold and innovative technological solutions' to help tackle the rising number of robberies in the capital.

Above: Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan call on mobile phone industry to join roundtable and work with City Hall and the Met to ‘design out’ robberies and thefts involving mobile phones.
Courtesy The Met

They are urging leading mobile phone providers and manufacturers to work with City Hall and the Met to ‘design out’ the theft and robberies of mobile phones, building on the successful precedent of car manufacturers who worked with police to substantially reduce the thefts of car radios and sat navs by integrating them into vehicle dashboards.

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The call to action is being made alongside renewed action by the Met to target hotspots of robbery and thefts in London with neighbourhood policing being boosted in high streets and local communities as part of the New Met for London plan.

The action comes as new figures show that mobile phone crime is driving the rise in robberies and thefts in the capital with 38% of all personal robberies last year – equating to more than 9,500 offences - involving a phone being stolen. And nearly 70% of all thefts in London last year were related to mobile phones.

Violence and weapons have also been used in many robberies – in line with national trends - leaving victims traumatised and in the most extreme examples seriously or fatally injured. After a period of decline during the pandemic, England is now experiencing a steady increase in robberies, as is London, in line with national trends.

The Met is spearheading dedicated and targeted police work to prevent these crimes but as the criminal demand for high-value mobile phones continues to grow, the Mayor and Met Commissioner agree more can be and should be done by the mobile phone industry to make it harder for stolen phones to be sold on, repurposed by vendors and re-used illegally.

To help develop a long-term solution to this growing crime, they have today jointly written to mobile phone providers and invited them to attend a roundtable discussion. 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.

With the summer holidays now under way during a cost-of-living crisis, the Mayor and the Met are determined to do everything possible to keep all Londoners safe by reinvigorating neighbourhood policing, proactively pursuing the worst offenders, making better use of technology to track stolen phones, and building on the significant progress that has been made in tackling violence and homicides in the capital.3

Police data shows that young people are disproportionately involved in robberies, both as victims and perpetrators, with young people aged between 14 and 20 particularly at risk of being targeted by criminals.

On Tuesday, 8th August the Mayor Sadiq Khan and Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley visited Ealing to see the intelligence-led, targeted police activity taking place day and night to prevent and tackle robberies in this area and across the capital. Alongside the enforcement action, the Mayor has provided an additional £7.4 million to his Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) for a series of activities across London this summer to provide positive and constructive opportunities for young people.

Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said: “The current practice of allowing stolen mobiles to be re-registered by new users within the phone industry inadvertently enables a criminal market which drives robbery, thefts and violent offending in London.

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“We need partners to step up to the plate and work alongside us to break this cycle of violence fuelled by the ability of mobile phones to be re-purposed and sold on in this way.

“Our work to drive down violence in all its forms across London continues. We’re building the strongest neighbourhood policing we’ve ever had, using data and technology to target hotspots, and arresting those handling stolen devices wherever and whenever we can.

“But we’ve been really clear there are root causes of violence we cannot tackle alone. Until we are working jointly with industry to remove the ability for phones to be used in this way, Londoners will continue to fall victim to those who will not hesitate to use violence to steal from them.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m committed to continue building a safer city for all Londoners by being tough on violence and tough on its complex causes.

“We have made progress with homicides, knife crime with injury and gun crime having fallen since 2016. But despite the support we’re providing young Londoners during the holidays and beyond, the spiralling cost-of-living threatens to exacerbate the drivers of violence and robberies which we know disproportionately impact young people.

“It’s simply too easy and profitable for criminals right now to repurpose and sell on stolen phones. That’s why, alongside strengthening neighbourhood policing and record investment in supporting the police to go after the worst offenders, the Commissioner and I are calling on the mobile phone industry to work with us and play their part in reducing robberies and thefts involving mobile phones.”

Claire Waxman OBE, London’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner, said: “Every robbery and theft is traumatic and the impact on the victim goes far beyond the loss of a personal possession – it heightens the fear of crime and how people feel going about their daily lives. Phones are also a form of safety for people because they know they can contact their family, loved ones and emergency services if they need to. Taking someone’s mobile phone robs them of that security. That’s why I welcome the proactive and intelligence-led approach by the Met and Mayor of London to put more police in areas where communities need them most and go after the worst offenders so we can all feel and be safer.

“Today our lives are on our phones - from our family photos, online banking, travelcards, wallet and emails. And it’s just far too straightforward for thieves to sell them on quickly for a profit. We need a long-term solution to the menace of mobile phone crime and the industry have a unique role and opportunity now to work with us to develop innovative deterrents that can prevent more people falling victim to this awful crime.”

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