Phone theft victims accuse Met of throwing away 'golden hour' despite reporting devices stolen within minutes

9 August 2023, 05:13 | Updated: 9 August 2023, 13:51

Phone theft victims have accused the Met of 'throwing away' the most crucial moment to catch offenders.
Phone theft victims have accused the Met of 'throwing away' the most crucial moment to catch offenders. Picture: Alamy
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

Victims of phone theft have told LBC that Metropolitan Police officers claimed “nothing can be done” to retrieve their stolen devices – despite being alerted within minutes of them being taken.

LBC has spoken to two victims who reported their phones stolen immediately, during the so-called ‘golden hour’ to catch the thieves.

The first hour after any crime is seen across policing as critical to an investigation because evidence is still fresh, and in the case of theft, stolen items are less likely to have been sold or destroyed.

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But Conor Clark, who used a stranger's phone to reported his own device stolen "within two or three minutes" of it being taken in north London in December, says police told him "there's nothing we can do".

Boy threatening with a knife, wanting money and mobile phone
Boy threatening with a knife, wanting money and mobile phone. Picture: Alamy

He said: "They came within about three or four minutes of the phone call, but as much as I appreciated how quickly they responded, they were useless.

"They just didn't do anything - the minute they met me they just said we wouldn't be able to get the phone back."

Conor said he could even track his iPhone using his Apple watch and showed officers where it was, but "they kept saying there's nothing we're going to be able to do."

Another victim, Georgie Banham, also said she "never really heard anything" from police after she reported her phone stolen within 20 minutes of it being taken in Walworth, in south London.

Georgie said she used the Find My iPhone feature to track her device to Elephant & Castle, and emailed the Met with it's exact location, but claims she never got a response.

She told LBC: "It made me really disappointed because there is something that could have been done about it. It's incredibly frustrating that I knew exactly where it was for a day, and I could have got it back."

Conor said he could even track his iPhone using his Apple watch and showed officers where it was, but "they kept saying there's nothing we're going to be able to do."
Conor said he could even track his iPhone using his Apple watch and showed officers where it was, but "they kept saying there's nothing we're going to be able to do.". Picture: Conor Clark

It comes as figures obtained by LBC show phone thefts in London shot up by almost 12,000 last winter, and doubled in Westminster alone.

But arrests stayed consistently low, with just 1.15% of reports resulting in a suspect being identified.

A total of 54,651 mobiles were reported stolen in the capital between October 2022 and March 2023, up a third on the previous six months.

Speaking to LBC in June, Met Commander Dr Alison Heydari, who leads on community policing for the Metropolitan Police, apologised to the victims who felt they’d been let down by the force.

She said: “I’m really sorry they’ve had that experience, but I would continue to ask members of the public to report this to us.

Georgie Banham told LBC she "never really heard anything" from police after she reported her phone stolen within 20 minutes of it being taken in Walworth, in south London.
Georgie Banham told LBC she "never really heard anything" from police after she reported her phone stolen within 20 minutes of it being taken in Walworth, in south London. Picture: Georgie Banham

“We will try our best to find out exactly what has happened, to reassure the victim and give them some crime prevention advice, and as well as investigating their crime.”

She insisted that reporting theft “as soon as possible” gives officers the best chance of tracking down criminals.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told LBC police hadn't responded well enough to street theft in the past, but insisted "that has changed now."

Sadiq Khan and Sir Mark Rowley
Sadiq Khan and Sir Mark Rowley have urged mobile phone firms to "design out" their appeal to thieves to help tackle the rising number of robberies in London. Picture: Getty

He urged victims to continue to report the crimes as quickly as possible, telling LBC: "The golden hour is important because the police will speedily send out a vehicle, and ask you to jump in it and drive around to see if you can spot the person who stole it.

"It's really important you report it so we know how serious the problem is, so we can take action, and by you reporting it you're potentially preventing somebody else being the victim of a robbery."

Mr Khan and Sir Mark Rowley have urged mobile phone firms to "design out" their appeal to thieves to help tackle the rising number of robberies in London.

Mr Khan and Met Commissioner Sir Mark have called on the industry to come up with "bold and innovative" solutions along the lines of car manufacturers, who worked with police to reduce the thefts of car radios and sat navs by integrating them into vehicle dashboards.

The Met is targeting robbery hotspots in London with boosted neighbourhood policing as part of the New Met for London plan.

According to Met figures, 38% of all personal robberies last year, equating to more than 9,500 offences, involved a phone being stolen, while nearly 70% of all thefts in London last year related to mobile phones.

Many robberies involved violence and weapons, leaving victims traumatised and, in the most extreme cases, seriously or fatally injured.

Speaking after joining a patrol in Ealing, west London, Sir Mark Rowley said: "We can't win this battle on our own and that's why the mayor and I have written demanding that the major phone companies meet us in a roundtable to fix this problem."

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