With crime on the rise in London since Sadiq Khan was installed as Mayor in the UK capital in 2016, mobile phones thefts have become endemic. In response, Khan wants the mobile phone industry itself to take action.
In a joint letter to phone company bosses, Khan and Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said they needed the “collaboration and expertise” of the phone manufacturers and software designers “to develop solutions to make this crime less rewarding”.
“Whilst relentless work to pursue perpetrators and the worst offenders will continue, we know we cannot arrest our way out of the issue,” they said.
They called on the industry to come up with “bold and innovative” solutions along the lines of car manufacturers, who worked with police to reduce the thefts of car radios and sat navs by integrating them into vehicle dashboards.
“… there is a criminal market which makes the theft of your phone worth hundreds of pounds to the thief. We have to break that market and only the phone companies can do it,” they said.
The plea for action coincides with the Metropolitan Police’s renewed efforts to address robbery and theft hotspots in London. This involves strengthening neighbourhood policing in busy commercial areas and local communities, in alignment with the objectives of the “New Met for London” plan.
Last year, more than 9,500 incidents of personal robbery, 38 per cent of the total number of robberies recorded, included the theft of a mobile phone.
Regarding thefts in London during the same period, mobile phones were involved in almost 70 per cent of cases.
Metropolitan Police data seen by the BBC indicates that in 2022, a staggering 90,864 mobile phones, equivalent to nearly 250 per day or one every six minutes, were stolen throughout the city.
Numerous robberies involved violence and the use of weapons, in the most severe instances resulting in serious or fatal injuries.
The Metropolitan Police is leading focused and specific law enforcement initiatives to thwart such offences. With criminal interest in valuable mobile phones increasing, both the Mayor and the Met commissioner concur that the mobile phone industry should take further and more effective steps to impede the resale and unauthorised reuse of stolen phones.
Khan said: “Mobile phones being stolen is traumatic for the victim. It’s traumatic because you could be the victim of a robbery. It’s traumatic because your personal data is on that phone. It could be personal photographs, it could be personal emails and texts, but also your wallet as well.”
Claire Waxman, Independent Victims’ Commissioner for London, said: “Today our lives are on our phones, from our family photos, online banking, travel cards, 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.”
Londoners shouldn’t have to put up with phone thieves.
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) August 9, 2023