obile phone firms have been urged to “design out” their appeal to thieves to help tackle the rising number of robberies in London.
Mayor Sadiq Khan and Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley have 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.
It comes as the Met targets robbery hotspots in London with boosted neighbourhood policing as part of the New Met for London plan.
According to Met figures, 38% of all personal robberies last year, equating to more than 9,500 offences, involved a phone being stolen, while nearly 70% of all thefts in London last year related to mobile phones.
Many robberies involved violence and weapons, leaving victims traumatised and, in the most extreme cases, seriously or fatally injured.
Speaking after joining a patrol in Ealing, west London, Sir Mark Rowley told the PA news agency: “We can’t win this battle on our own and that’s why the mayor and I have written demanding that the major phone companies meet us in a roundtable to fix this problem.
“Their technical expertise is critical because their current model allows a stolen phone to be registered and used by somebody else.
“As long as that’s possible 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.”
The commissioner said the Met Police are building “the strongest neighbourhood policing offer we’ve ever had, using data and technology to target hotspots, and arresting those handling stolen devices wherever and whenever we can”.
The mayor and Met Commissioner said “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.
They have jointly written to mobile phone providers inviting them to attend a roundtable discussion to focus on how the police, City Hall and the mobile phone industry could work together to reduce mobile phone robberies in London and beyond.
Mr Khan told PA: “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.”
He added: “We were told it was impossible to design out the theft of car stereos and sat navs.
“We are hoping there is a can-do attitude from phone networks and phone manufacturers to make it so that a stolen phone is worthless to a thief that has no sell-on value.”
Claire Waxman, London’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner, 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.”