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Khan pledges to tackle phone theft as figures on the rise

There have been huge spikes in phone theft across the capital in the last two years, with an average of 250 phones being stolen per day in London according to Met Police data.

This rise is part of a troubling trend that contrasts sharply with the relatively stable crime rates the city experienced in the early 2010s.

Upon starting his third term, Sadiq Khan, who first took office in 2016, pledged a determined effort to address phone theft.

Specific crimes such as theft, shoplifting, and criminal damage have seen a sharper rise in the capital.

Post-pandemic, nearly 60,000 incidents of theft and shoplifting were reported in London in 2023 alone.

In response to these challenges, Khan launched a robust initiative known as the “gangbusters package,” aimed at protecting those most vulnerable to crimes like robbery and exploitation.

This package includes a £3 million investment in youth workers, targeting after-school hours to deter young people from engaging in criminal

Source: ONS Crime in England and Wales: Police Force Area data tables

Met Commander Owain Richards said: “We understand the impact that mobile phone theft can have on victims.

“It’s an invasive and sometimes violent crime and we’re committed to protecting Londoners and tackling this issue as we make the capital safer.

“We continue to use data and technology to build intelligence and track stolen phones to target offenders as we fight community crime. We are also working with phone firms to design out the ability for phones to be reused and sold on as we seek to dismantle the criminal market that fuels robbery.”

In the Metropolitan Police’s year-end statistics for 2022 to 2023, two distinct categories of mobile phone-related crimes emerge. The first, involving the forceful robbery of mobile phones, accounts for 10,485 recorded incidents.

The second, characterised by the non-violent theft of mobile phones directly from individuals, significantly higher in frequency, encompasses 41,704 recorded incidents.

Robbery of phones involves the use of force, whereas theft refers to taking a mobile device without violence, like pickpocketing or grabbing it off a table.

Both crimes have become increasingly prevalent in the capital, however, thieves have become bolder when taking phones from victims.

The use of e-bikes to commit theft has become pervasive according to the Met Office.

In 2022 alone there were 14,953 phones stolen using e-bikes.

Multiple victims have discussed having their phones taken straight from their hands when walking down the street.

The perpetrator can easily snatch the phone out of the unsuspecting victim’s hand and ride off rapidly.

Speaking to a victim of theft she explained her experience of having her phone taken whilst she was walking home in Westminster, one of the boroughs of London which has experienced a severe increase in this kind of crime.

Sapphire (name changed), 25, explained: “It was 11:30 pm, I was leaving Oxford and Cambridge club and I was walking up St. James’s Street.

“I saw a group of boys all riding e-bikes.

“There were five or four other cyclists nearby. And they’re all like cycling in a big group.

“I was walking along phone in hand, and one of the cyclists came up behind me onto the pavement and just snatched my phone completely out of my hand.”

Sapphire described the group ‘goading’ her as she ran after them. She continued in pursuit, however, they quickly sped off.

When she reported it to the police, she said they lacked any channels that provided support for her and despite the fact, that they could see the location of her phone using Apple’s ‘Find My Device’ feature they didn’t attempt to retrieve the device or apprehend those who had taken it.

She said she has received little to no support subsequently and felt that she hadn’t been dealt with by the police in a way that helped her move forward after having her phone stolen.

The Met Police says 90,864 phones, or almost 250 a day, were stolen in 2022.

MET police statistics on mobile phone thefts from January 2022 to January 2023

Of those more than 90,000 stolen phones, fewer than 2,000 were recovered – meaning that nearly 98% of people who had their phones stolen never saw them again.

The Met has not released statistics that can show comparatively the differences over the last couple of years but all eyes are on Khan to see how he will reduce phone theft in London during his third term.

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