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Mobile phone snatch thieves target tourists

Police say bandits want to steal the iPhone 10 and may even throw back a stolen iPhone 6

14 June, 2018 — By William McLennan

PHONE-snatch thieves are riding into Camden on stolen mopeds from as far afield as Essex to target tourists and students, police have warned.

The number of “moped-enabled offences” has fallen dramatically in the past 12 months, the officer in charge of tackling the crimewave revealed, but confirmed that it still “happens more in Camden than it does anywhere else across London”.

Detective Superintendent Caroline Haines said: “[Mopeds] are stolen from elsewhere in London or the Home Counties and then they actually travel into Camden and Islington to commit the crimes. They are travelling across the whole of London to commit crimes.”

Det Supt Haines said offences were committed “overwhelmingly” south of Euston Road, citing the high number of tourists visiting attractions such as the British Museum and students at the likes of University College London.

She said the reduction in thefts was partly down to the increase in “tactical contact” – where police drivers end a pursuit by knocking suspects off their moped. There were 878 offences in the first five months of this year. Last year there were almost as many in a single month, with 743 recorded in June and 712 in July. Inspector Richard Berns said anyone could fall victim, but thieves only target expensive phones and would immediately discard older handsets.

He added: “The thing the victims all have in common is they are distracted when they are using a valuable mobile phone. If it’s not a particularly valuable phone, the thieves will actually throw it away. They’ll say ‘oh, what, an iPhone 6’ and throw it back. They are after the valuable Samsungs, the valuable iPhones. The iPhone 10 is probably the Holy Grail for the thieves and they can get some decent money for it.”

DSI Haines said the reduction in offences followed a “root and branch review” of the police response. As well as “tactical contact”, officers have have also introduced remotely controlled “stingers” – which deflate moped tyres – and “DNA spray” that allows officers on foot to cover a suspect with a liquid that contains a unique code that shows up under UV light, linking them to a particular crime scene.


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