Government highlights mobile phone thefts

People will be warned that buying stolen mobile phones is a waste of money in a new £500,000 advertising campaign launched by the government.

The new advert designs use abbreviated text language and can be distributed via mobiles and social networking websites such as Facebook and Myspace.

The message is simple: now that the mobile phone industry blocks stolen phones within 48 hours, buying one is a waste of money.

Primarily aimed at 16 to 25-year-olds, the adverts will feature in magazines including Heat, Zoo and Nuts, on websites such as Ebay, Loot and Gumtree and be emblazoned on phone boxes and litter bins in youth social hotspots from June 25.

Network subscription in the UK has increased from 17 million to 72 million in the last eight years, although mobile phone robbery has reduced by a fifth over the past five years.

However, 2% of mobile phone owners (800,000 people) suffered a theft in the previous year. The majority of mobile phone thefts (69%) were the result of handsets being left unattended. However, a phone is stolen in around 52% of robberies and is the only item stolen in around 28%.

In April it became an offence to offer to or agree to re-program a mobile phone under the Violent Crime Reduction Act. Previously police officers had to catch someone in the act of re-programming a mobile before arresting them.

Crime Reduction Minister Baroness Scotland said: "I want this campaign to take the bottom out of the illicit phone market entirely. Young people should be left in no doubt that stolen phones won't work anymore. The prize will be a dramatic reduction in mobile phone crime overall making young people safer."

Jack Wraith, chairman of the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum, said: "In July 2006, the UK mobile phone industry introduced a Crime Reduction Charter to tackle mobile handset theft. One of the commitments in that Charter was to block 80% of mobile handsets across all UK networks within 48 hours of them being reported as stolen.

"Independent testing showed that we actually achieved 905. This, we believe, sends a clear message to any thief or potential buyer that stolen mobile phones will be blocked on all UK networks and, once blocked, will be useless."

The new campaign is scheduled to run until mid-August.


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