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Renewed warnings to public to help prevent smartphone thefts

August 31, 2012

Islington Council and the police have issued further precautionary warnings for smartphone users to avoid snatch thefts.

Several such crimes were committed during August on York Way and Caledonian Road. Our neighbourhood was one of the first areas in the Borough to experience these thefts which started about a year ago. But, following tough action by police and Council earlier in 2012, Caledonian Ward has recently experienced far fewer recent thefts than many other parts of the Borough.

Islington police have recently released a short CCTV clip demonstrating how speedily and suddenly these thefts can happen. The video shows a young man standing outside an Essex Road pub when (at about 12 seconds into the clip) a snatcher cycles past at speed.

Much of inner and central London is experiencing a plague of aggressive thefts committed by young men usually riding pushbikes or motor scooters. In the last 12 months, the number of such thefts has risen to over a thousand in Islington alone. That means over £½ million of hand-held property has been stolen in snatch thefts over that period.

The police have issued detailed do-and-don’t guidance to smartphone users. Most of this is common sense:

  • Be discreet with your phone, particularly when using it in public.
  • Don’t make your mobile phone a moving target, where possible don’t use your phone whilst walking along the kerb as thieves operate on bikes and can snatch it from your hand
  • Don’t leave your phone on tables in pubs or restaurants.
  • When you exit a tube station or bus don’t use your phone immediately
  • Don’t walk and text at the same time, you will be less aware of what is happening around you.
  • Keep calls in public places as brief as possible, the longer you talk, the more likely you are to be spotted by a potential thief.
  • Many phones have an IMEI number which is a unique identifier for the phone; you can obtain this   number by typing *#06# (star hash 06 hash) into your mobile phone and it will display a 15 digit number.
  • Register your mobile phone at

Councillor Paul Convery, one of the Cally Labour Councillors comments “All smartphone users are urged to follow the police advice and avoid becoming a theft target. But Islington Council is also working with the police to identify the gangs of young men committing these crimes and to use the full range of legal powers to arrest and convict offenders. Caledonian Ward was one of the first parts of Islington to experience these kinds of thefts. The sharp drop in reported thefts is partly because the police acted quickly in January and February. They drafted-in dozens of officers, undertaking stop-and-search, raiding homes based on intelligence, making arrests and imposing tough bail conditions on suspects.”

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