Phone stolen every six minutes in London, with recovery rate at 2%

The police have seen increased incidents involving motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles

London is experiencing a high number of phone thefts, with only a small percentage of devices being recovered. Reuters
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A phone is reported stolen in London every six minutes, according to figures released by the Metropolitan Police.

Between January 1 and August 17 last year, there were 54,159 reports of phone theft, which averages 237 a day.

However, only two per cent of these reported thefts resulted in the recovery of the device.

The Metropolitan Police say policing the crime is "difficult," and that "daily operations" continue to take place.

The boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Southwark and Hackney had the highest reported thefts, with Westminster having the worst numbers. The boroughs of Bexley saw the fewest reported thefts.

Recovery rates are equally low across the city, with key areas like Westminster, Hackney and Camden all below the London-wide average.

In January this year, there were more than 8,500 reports of stolen phones, but only 119 devices were returned to their owners.

The rate for phone theft was called "unacceptable and unsustainable" by the independent inspector of police forces, His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

HMCIFRS Chief Inspector Andy Cooke said that "phone theft is not a minor crime, it strikes at the heart of how safe people feel in their own communities.

"There needs to be a concerted drive to address this because it directly affects the public's confidence in the police's ability to keep them safe."

The BBC spoke to several people who reported their phone stolen to the police but never got it recovered.

Sharon Browne-Peter had her phone snatched out of her hand by a man on a bike while waiting for a bus in Islington.

Despite ringing the police immediately, she said the police told her to go home and "there was nothing they could do at this point".

She managed to track the location of her phone and rang the police countless times, but they told her that there were hundreds of cases at that same address but there's nothing they can really do. Since then, she has felt less safe in London.

Similarly, Georgina Banham was robbed by a man on a bicycle in Walworth, south London, as she chatted on the phone with her father.

She filled in the Met's 'Report a Crime' page online, but only received "an automated do-not-reply email and a case number, no one ever phoned," she said.

Ms Banham was also able to track her phone's location as it moved from London to Dubai and then to Shenzhen in China, but there was no further contact from the authorities. "My trust in the police is non-existent," she said.

The Met has seen increased incidents of phone theft involving motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles, with more than 40 reports of bike-based thefts a day last year.

The police have advised victims to contact them as soon as a robbery occurs, as the "Golden Hour" after a robbery is critical to catching robbers. However, the number of reported thefts continues to rise, and with low recovery rates, victims are left feeling helpless and violated.

Updated: April 11, 2023, 12:48 PM