Mayor and Met Commissioner convene landmark meeting with world-leading mobile phone companies to design out theft and robbery of smartphones
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Mark Rowley, on Tuesday, 17 October convened a landmark meeting with world-leading mobile phone companies to ask them to commit to designing out mobile phone robbery.
Apple, Samsung and Google are just some of the leading mobile manufacturers that were represented in the milestone meeting at City Hall which involved representatives from major UK mobile phone network providers.
The meeting focused 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 in London and beyond.
It follows a call to action from the Mayor of London and Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley in August for the mobile phone industry to play their part and “deliver bold and innovative technological solutions” to help tackle the rising number of robberies and thefts in the capital.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Today we’ve convened leading representatives from the mobile phone industry to design out the theft and robbery of mobile phones and ultimately make London safer for everyone.
“This meeting is an important milestone to developing a practical and long-term solution to ending the menace of mobile phone crime which we know is driving violence and criminality in our communities – not just in London but across the UK.
“Right now, it is far too easy and profitable for criminals to repurpose and sell on stolen phones. That must change and is why, alongside strengthening neighbourhood policing and record investment in supporting the police to go after the worst offenders, the Commissioner and I are now working closely with mobile phone industry to develop innovative and technological solutions that make a stolen phone far less desirable and usable by thieves.”
Figures show criminal demand for the latest devices continues to rise. In the last 12 months there has been a 28 per cent increase in mobile phone robbery in London and a 22% increase in theft of mobile phones. This represents a total of 57,174 mobile phones reported stolen and equates to an average of 157 mobile phones stolen every day in London.
The Met has said that it continues its dedicated work to pursue perpetrators and target mobile phone crime hotspots. However, the Mayor and the Commissioner agree there is more that can be done to prevent mobile phone theft by making it harder for stolen phones to be re-used and registered for services not just on phone networks but also for services provided by Apple, Google Play, Samsung and other online stores.
Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said: “Current mobile phone operating systems make it far too easy for criminals to steal devices, re-register them, and sell them on. This fuels a highly lucrative and profitable criminal market across the capital, and is central to the rise in thefts, robbery and violent offending we’ve seen over the last two years.
“We remain focused on driving down violence in all its forms. We’re rebuilding neighbourhood policing, using data and tech to target hotspots and arresting criminals responsible for brazenly stealing phones from the hands of Londoners every day. Just this weekend we made multiple arrests and seized more than 70 stolen phones at a shop selling them onwards.
“But until we design out the ability for phones to be used in the way they currently are, we will be stuck in a vicious circle. Key mobile phone players have a huge part to play in crushing this criminal market, and this meeting is a really important step forward, but we have to move quickly. Over the last six months more than 26,000 phones have been stolen from Londoners. We can’t wait another six months to take action.”
Existing security measures, including pin, fingerprint and facial ID, are not deterring criminals from stealing mobile phones which remain in high demand and are being sold and re-used in a lucrative underground criminal market. And the release of new more expensive mobile phones is having an impact on the increase in robberies and thefts in London and across the UK.
A number of options were discussed by leading industry, technological and policing experts at the meeting. It also focused on the evolving nature of mobile phone theft – ask for commitments to work to look at options that will make it substantially harder for phones to be broken up for parts abroad. Measures to counter the growing menace of identity fraud whereby criminals steal the digital identity of victims and use it to access electronic payment apps, bank accounts and other personal information was also discussed.
The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, said: “Today is a really important opportunity for real collaboration between the police, mobile phone companies and the mobile phone manufacturers in our efforts to tackle smartphone robbery.
“Using the latest technical advances, we want to establish universal security measures that are not just an opt-in, but come as standard and are fail-safe – making smartphone crime far less lucrative for potential offenders.
“These crimes often cause untold psychological, physical and financial harms to phone owners. But with the support of the industry giants we can start to design-out and prevent these robberies across the capital and beyond.”