HC Deb 24 July 2002 vol 389 cc1479-80W
Mr. Moss

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many mobile phone thefts there have been by(a) police authority area and (b) crime and disorder partnership area each year since 1997. [43029]

Mr. John Denham

The requested information is not collected centrally.

Estimates of the number of mobile phone thefts in England and Wales as a whole in 2000–01 vary widely, depending on the source of the data used to produce the estimate. A recent research study "Mobile Phone Theft" (by Victoria Harrington and Pat Mayhew, Home Office Research Study 235) contained a number of estimates. On the basis of figures from six police forces extrapolated to England and Wales, there were an estimated 330,000 offences recorded by the police in 2000–01, while the best estimate from analysis of data from three surveys indicates that there were some 710,000 phone thefts occurring annually at this time.

We are working with the police and the mobile phone industry to reduce mobile phone robbery, undertaking public awareness campaigns and joint tracking exercises. Our discussions with the operators have recently borne fruit. By the summer all five of the main operators will be able to bar stolen handsets by reference to the unique IMEI number which identifies the handset. All of the operators are also working together to develop a shared database of stolen phones, which will allow them to disable stolen phones if there is an attempt to use them on a different network. We believe that this is a very important step forward, as it should remove one of the major incentives for robbery.

Operators have also agreed to improve security as they invest in new systems. We are pressing the handset manufacturers for similar commitments. A start has been made, but more needs to be done before Britain's mobile phone system can lead the world in security. The mobile phone industry needs to show more interest in the security of phones they are selling to British consumers and, as the motor industry has done, do more to prevent their customers from becoming the victims of crime.