The Independent London Newspaper


Cops on high-tech trail of mobile phone thieves

Published: 5 April, 2013

THE Metropolitan Police will be tracking packages and all luggage going abroad to stop mobile phone muggings on the streets of London.

Police chiefs estimate “hundreds” of mobile phones are stolen every month in Islington – with the figure fluctuating from more than 100 phones to 400 – all taking up “around 80 hours a week” of police time.

But police bosses are in talks with the UK Border Agency and the Post Office to detect a phone’s IMEI number as it is routinely scanned.

If the unique code has been blocked or is registered stolen, the phone will be removed and the sender traced.

All mobile phones which use a GSM network, as opposed to an older analog network, contain an International Mobile Station Equipment number which can be found in the phone’s battery compartment and is also stored within a SIM card.

Labour councillor Paul Convery, the council’s crime chief, said: “It’s a smart use of technology being used to tackle crime based on stealing technology.

"It’s been known for a while that mobile phones can be tracked using an IMEI number, and if an international wholesale villain is confined and cannot sell across the globe any more that will affect what they target to make money from.

“This has been discussed but the detail has yet to be put in place.

"The agreement of mobile phone providers is required. Then we would need databases that can track and match different information.

"A certain amount of fixing, plugging and fine-tuning technology needs to be done. The principle is pretty straightforward, but the detail may cause time to drag before it’s all in place.”

A police source said “new systems” would be needed for the idea to work, but that it was “attainable”.

Police confirm that criminals can currently make “a good living” from stealing phones, with an iPhone selling for around £600.

Cllr Convery added: “It will have a similar effect to what happened with pedal bike thefts in London.

"Five years ago they were an enormous problem, until police warned traders they had to be sure where their secondhand bikes came from. So, the thieves couldn’t sell their goods on, meaning it was useless stealing the bikes in the first place.

“This will have the same marked impact because it will choke off the overseas resale market, which is where the real money in mobile phone theft is made.”

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said he could not confirm the plans. A spokeswoman for the Post Office declined to comment.



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