A Home Office Summit aimed at tackling the growing number of mobile phone thefts has stepped up its work to look at how security features might be used to make handsets less attractive to thieves.
A new online advice service is among options being considered by the Home Office, all the while working with the industry in a bid to tackle mobile phone theft.
The move comes after crime prevention minister Norman Baker met representatives from mobile phone industry leaders including Samsung, Google, Apple, Nokia and BlackBerry to consider new action against the growing problem.
The Government agreed to look at ways in which to support industry efforts, including encouraging the public to make more use of phone security features. This includes looking into launching an online advice service which would give people ideas on how to better protect their phone.
The UK is a world leader in responding to mobile phone crime, with the industry and the police having worked together to block stolen phones within 48 hours – stopping them being re-used in this country and making them less valuable.
At the meeting, manufacturers outlined a range of new security features they are adding to phones which will make it harder for criminals to use stolen handsets.
Mobile phones are becoming an increasingly attractive target for thieves, with more than 800,000 stolen in the past year alone across England and Wales.
Handsets can be sold for hundreds of pounds overseas, where the newest models are not yet available.
Increase in theft from the person
“Recorded crime is down by more than 10% under this Government,” said Baker, “but we’re seeing signs of an increase in theft from the person, mainly smartphones. Mobile phone technology is changing all the time, and we need innovative solutions to ensure we stay ahead of the criminals. I want to make mobile phone theft as difficult as possible. This meeting with telecom leaders is an important step forward.”
A spokesperson for Samsung said: “Samsung is pleased to be supporting the UK Government in its goal to reduce the serious issue of mobile phone crime theft. Samsung phones already have features such as ‘Find My Mobile’, which gives people control over how their devices are used if lost or stolen, as well as ‘Reactivation Lock’ on new mobile devices which prevents a reset of the device if it isn’t recovered.”
The spokesperson continued: “Samsung strongly encourages everyone to use the features available on their device to protect it in the event that it is lost or stolen, and we’re continuing to explore new and innovative ways in which to prevent the use of stolen devices.”
A Nokia spokesperson added: “Nokia has a long history of working with Governments, operators and retailers to reduce the theft of mobile phones. It’s good to see this renewed focus on protecting users.”
The following organisations were represented at this latest round of discussions: Apple, BlackBerry, Google (Android), Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft and the Global System for Mobile Communications Association.
According to the Crime Survey, 826,000 people in England and Wales have experienced mobile phone theft in the past year. That equates to around 2% of mobile phone owners. This percentage has stayed more or less constant since 2005-2006.