We’re in the midst of a phone theft epidemic - I fell victim, and I don’t trust the Met to sort it out

6 February 2024, 14:17

Is there even any point in having nice things in London?
Is there even any point in having nice things in London? Picture: Alamy

By Danielle de Wolfe

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Not the Met, that’s for sure.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Figures obtained from Transport for London (TFL) show that between April and September 2023, there was an 83 percent rise in thefts on the Tube, while robberies were up a staggering 107 percent when compared to the same period in 2022.

If you weren’t aware of those statistics, then the constant warnings of pickpockets, plastered across billboards and blaring from every tannoy on the London Underground, might just be a giveaway.

And that’s just the start.

With nearly two-fifths of robberies in the capital being mobile phone-related, violence was used or threatened every 55 minutes according to statistics obtained by The Guardian.

Additional figures released by the Metropolitan Police also revealed that 90,864 phones were stolen across London in 2022 – that works out at almost 250 a day, or the equivalent of one every six minutes.

London mayor Sadiq Khan and the Met commissioner think its a problem for the mobile phone bosses, calling for the tech giants to "design out" incentives that make them desirable to thieves.

But why should the public be the ones to compromise because organized gang crime is out of control? It’s about time we targeted the criminals profiting from our hard-earned purchases in the first place.

The scale of the criminality in the capital is eye-watering – particularly when you consider 98% UK adults aged 16-24 now own a smartphone according to a recent USwitch survey.

With figures like that, you’d expect a suitably hot response from the Met. Except, there rarely is.

With the latest Apple handset costing upwards of £1,000 a pop, criminals are quite literally snatching wads of cash from our hands, with next-to-no response from police.

I speak from experience.

Last week I too became a victim of crime in the capital when I was targeted by a gang of pickpockets on one of the country’s most famous shopping streets.

Credit where credit’s due, the finesse with which these gangs operate is some kind of art form. While one brushed up against my shoulder, the other explored the contents of the opposite coat pocket.

It was a sleight of hand operation that even Fagin would’ve been proud of.

The whole incident was over in a heartbeat. And yet, the ramifications will be felt for far longer.

My headphones disconnected instantly. I sprinted to alert the security guard. And his response?

“Not again.”

It was the same story later that day when I spoke to an employee at the Apple store in a bid to erase my phone remotely. They informed me that I was “the fifth person that day” to have their phone lifted from their coat pocket in the area.

The employee had only been on shift for three hours.

Anger-inducing in the extreme, I instantly reconciled myself to the fact I’d never again see my mobile phone - nor a police officer, for that matter.

My lack of faith wasn’t the result of the security guard’s response – who shrugged and told me there was ‘no point” in checking CCTV, despite my pleas.

It comes as a result of regular and repeated under-investigation. It’s the result of the Met’s lacklustre response – where both myself and friends are concerned – when it comes to ‘low-level crime’.

These crimes underpin a giant pyramid of criminality, so why not hit the criminals where it hurts?

Londoners understand the problem is, in part, down to a sheer lack of resources. But I can guarantee that most would be willing to offer up part of that eye-watering mobile phone downpayment for a quick response time from the boys in blue.

I speak from experience when I say that, as a female, that being heard and acknowledged by law enforcement is half the trust battle.

It’s no wonder public confidence in the force is at an all-time low, with statistics revealing less than half of Londoners have faith in the Met - as just 4% of young women strongly trust the force.

So, when thousands of phones are being stolen from our persons every day, isn’t it about time the Met showed up?

After all, if large-scale criminality is underpinned by low-level crime, it’s about time we dismantled the foundations.