Met Boss Focuses on Mobile Phone Theft During Ealing Visit

Over three hundred people attend briefing meeting with Sir Mark Rowley

Sir Mark Rowley and Sadiq Khan talk to officers on Haven Green
Sir Mark Rowley and Sadiq Khan talk to officers on Haven Green Picture: Met Police

August 10, 2023

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has called on the mobile phone industry to do more to prevent theft during a visit to Ealing.

On Tuesday 8 August Sir Mark Rowley joined officers on patrol in the centre of the Ealing along with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and local MP Rupa Huq.

This was ahead of a briefing meeting taking place that evening in which the police chief was introducing his plan for policing in the borough and across the capital. Over 300 local people turned up to hear what he had to say at the University of West London.

The Met boss told the meeting that his aim is to put communities back at the heart of policing as it delivers more trust, less crime and high standards.

A dedicated neighbourhood superintendent has already been appointed in every borough with Sean Lynch, who was also present at the meeting, taking the role in Ealing Borough.

Earlier in the day, Sir Mark and the Mayor were told by officers from the local Safer Neighbourhoods teams about the intelligence-led, targeted police activity taking place day and night to prevent and tackle robberies in this area.

Afterwards he said that he believed that more could be done by the companies that supply the phones to tackle the high level of theft currently. He pointed out that each phone has a unique number (IMEI) and it should not be difficult technically to stop a phone that had been reported as stolen being registered.

The Mayor supported his call saying, “Every robbery is traumatic and the impact goes far beyond the loss of a personal possession.”

I joined @metpoliceuk officers in Ealing on a targeted police patrol to help prevent and tackle robberies and theft in this area.

The pair have written to company bosses saying they needed the “collaboration and expertise” of the phone manufacturers and software designers “to develop solutions to make this crime less rewarding”.


According to statistics provided to the BBC by the Met, some 90,864 phones – equating to almost 250 a day, or one every six minutes – were stolen across the capital in 2022.

In their letter, Mr Khan and Sir Mark said, “Whilst relentless work to pursue perpetrators and the worst offenders will continue, we know we cannot arrest our way out of the issue.

“Much more can be done to prevent mobile phone theft by making it harder for stolen phones to be re-used and registered for services not just on carrier networks but also for services provided by hardware and operating systems vendors.”

The Met Boss, the Mayor and Rupa Huq MP join officers on patrol. Picture: Met Police
The Met Boss, the Mayor and Rupa Huq MP join officers on patrol. Picture: Met Police

Mr Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “[This is] the commissioner and I saying to mobile phone companies – those are the manufacturers and the networks – ‘Can we work together, using your tech savvy, your innovation, to make a stolen phone almost worthless for somebody trying to steal it?’

“Because what we do know is – they [criminals] steal the mobile phone, they repurpose it, and then they sell it on.

“We’ve seen through recent history how working with car manufacturers, we made a car stereo almost worthless, because we ‘designed it out’, by making sure car manufacturers had [the stereo] in the dashboard… so [it] couldn’t be stolen.

“But also working with car manufacturers, we ‘designed out’ sat-navs being stolen as well, and we’re hoping that that can-do attitude of mobile phone companies, networks, will mean that it wouldn’t be worth a robber or a thief stealing a mobile phone.”

Over 300 people came to hear Sir Mark speak in Ealing. Picture: Twitter

According to City Hall, mobile phone crime is driving the rise in robberies and thefts in the capital, with 38 per cent of all personal robberies last year – equating to more than 9,500 offences – involving a phone being stolen. Nearly 70 per cent of all thefts in London last year related to mobile phones.

Sir Mark said the Met was working to bring the number of offences down, by targeting London’s theft hotspots and boosting neighbourhood policing in high streets and local communities, as part of the New Met for London plan.

He warned however, “As long as there is massive profit to be made by the resale of these stolen phones, and the companies don’t use their technology to block them – as long as that’s going on, there’ll be a market, and these offences will happen.

“So yes, we need to keep working hard… but we need the industry to help drive this down, and that’s why we’re demanding this roundtable.”

He added: “Every mobile has a digital serial number embedded in it, the IMEI number as it’s called.

“We know the serial numbers of stolen phones. It must be possible for the phone companies, and those providing the operating systems – like iOS and Android – it must be possible for them to block the use of a stolen phone. That would kill the second-hand value overnight.”

Police data shows that young people are disproportionately involved in robberies, both as victims and perpetrators, with those aged between 14-20 particularly at risk of being targeted by criminals.

“I think they’re seen perhaps as an easy target for the offenders,” Sir Mark said.

“This is about protecting everyone, and over the summer particularly, when kids aren’t in school, we’re running lots of operations to protect them as well.”

Written with contributions from Noah Vickers - Local Democracy Reporter

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