Hackney’s theft and handling crimes have seen a significant drop in the last twelve months, according to recent data released by the Metropolitan police.
This is following a successful two-pronged attack by a team of 600 police officers in Hackney, committed to increasing awareness of Smartphone theft and limiting opportunities for criminal activity. This year has seen fewer than 800 cases reported compared to over a thousand in 2013.
Shoreditch is one of the areas most affected by this type of crime. Andy Walker, chief inspector in the Hackney area, sees this as a result of the changing local nightlife: “Shoreditch has an expanding night-time economy – there are lots of pubs and clubs. Around 20 – 30,000 people come to the area at the weekend and almost all of them have a Smartphone.”
Dedicated teams of police work undercover in the area to catch criminals, but Walker claims that the majority of police work goes towards making the public “aware but not alarmed” about the danger through campaigns such as Love Your Phone – originally designed by Clapham Grand nightclub after a spate of thefts.
While police in Hackney have managed to reduce the number of thefts by 2 per cent, many are calling on those in the Smartphone industry to push for further change.
Walker sights the customer policies of various Smartphone giants as a key problem. In recent years, police have found that criminals are using Smartphone shops to “effectively launder stolen phones”.
Walker claims this is often done through microwaving the stolen phones and exchanging them for “clean” mobile phones at Smartphone shops.
According to a specialist from Apple, who we cannot name for contractual reasons, the corporation have certain conditions in place when trading handsets: “We do swap phones out, but only when the customer’s phone is in warranty and only when they’re not acting suspiciously.”
Yet Johnson does say that Apple “always assumes positive intent”, which could potentially lead to criminal misuse.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, addressed this problem in his speech last year: “We need manufacturers to play their part and work with us to help devise solutions to deter theft and help prevent this crime”.
Andy Walker agrees: “We will continue to do what we’re doing, but while the rewards are so great I’m not sure how much further down we’ll be able to push this type of crime.”
London is the worst affected area in the UK for Smartphone theft. Every month 10,000 mobile phones are reported stolen, with around 70 per cent of all thefts in London involving phones.
Walker stresses the preventability of these crimes: “Your chances of being a victim are actually very small, but you can eliminate it quite easily by doing a couple of fairly sensible things – if you’re not walking down the street holding up your phone in the air, somebody’s not going to run past and grab it from you.”
By Hannah Boland