Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley have today 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.
They are urging leading mobile phone providers and manufacturers to work with City Hall and the Met Police to “design out” the theft of mobile phones, building on the successful precedent of car manufacturers who worked with police to reduce robberies of car radios and sat navs by integrating them into vehicle dashboards.
According to stats from the Metropolitan Police, so far in 2023 there has been a 27per cent increase in theft from person offences involving a mobile phone. In 2022, there were 38,996 thefts from person offences involving a mobile phone, making up 68per cent of all such offences.
The call to action from the Mayor and the Met is being made alongside renewed action by the police to target robbery hotspots, with neighbourhood policing being boosted in high streets and local communities as part of the New Met for London plan.
Violence and weapons have been used in many robberies, leaving victims traumatised and in the most extreme examples seriously or fatally injured. In one tragic incident, a victim who was stabbed in the leg and had his mobile phone stolen died from his injuries. In another horrific incident, a pregnant woman had a miscarriage after being kicked in the stomach while having her mobile phone stolen.
Police data shows that young people are disproportionately involved in robberies, both as victims and perpetrators, with those aged between 14 and 20 particularly at risk of being targeted by criminals.
As the criminal demand for high-value mobile phones continues to grow, the Mayor and Met Commissioner agree more could 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.
They have today written a joint letter to mobile phone providers 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.
Alongside the enforcement action, the Mayor has provided an additional £7.4million to his Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) for a series of activities across London this summer to provide positive and constructive opportunities for young people.
“I’m committed to continue building a safer city for all Londoners by being tough on violence and tough on its complex causes,” Mayor Khan said today.
“We have made progress with murders, 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.”
Sir Mark 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.
“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.
“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 and Met’s joint initiative was welcomed by the capital’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner. Claire Waxman said, “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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