Home Secretary sees phone crime unit in action

Home Secretary Theresa May met officers from the West Midlands Police’s specialist Mobile Phone Crime Unit (MPCU) to see first hand the force’s innovative approach to tackling phone theft.

Aug 4, 2011
By Paul Jacques

Home Secretary Theresa May met officers from the West Midlands Police’s specialist Mobile Phone Crime Unit (MPCU) to see first hand the force’s innovative approach to tackling phone theft.

The unit – set up as part of operation Serve and Protect, a forcewide crackdown on robbery – has already recovered 350 stolen phones worth more than £100,000 in the first two and a half months since beginning work.

Detective Inspector Mark Rushton, who heads the unit, said: “West Midlands Police is only the second police force in the country to have a unit dedicated to tackling mobile phone crime.

“Talking to the Home Secretary presented a great opportunity for us to showcase the innovative ways in which we are protecting the public from harm and ensuring criminals are brought to justice.”

The unit uses handheld scanners which allow officers to check if mobiles are stolen, with iPhones and BlackBerrys topping criminals’ hit-lists.

Linked to the National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR), officers are able to scan the IMEI number on recovered handsets and instantly tell if the phone has been reported lost or stolen, meaning offenders can be more quickly arrested and mobiles returned to their rightful owners.

The mobile has to have been registered first on at www.immoblise.com, which can be done for free.

In addition to recovering the stolen mobiles, the MPCU has detected 70 false robbery reports and executed 30 warrants in relation to stolen mobile phones.

The team has also conducted uncover patrols at music concerts and festivals in Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry, to capture thieves who deliberate target music fans at packed venues.

During one such operation, the team arrested a man wearing two pairs of specially-adapted trousers with the pockets cut out and the inner pair taped around the ankles into which he could deposit a large number of stolen phones.

According to Det Insp Rushton, this tactic is becoming commonplace. It is like a “walking bag”, but we have now identified it, know that tactic, and now they cannot use it, he explained.

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