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Progress and prospects in the prevention of mobile phone theft

journal contribution
posted on 2006-06-08, 15:30 authored by Jen Mailley, Shaun Whitehead, Graham Farrell
Mobile phone ownership continues to be a driver of theft and robbery in the UK. Several years of news headlines such as “Mobile Phones and iPods fuel rise in Muggings” ((2006) Independent, February 27,) suggest that the problem may be getting worse rather than better. Whether this is true probably depends on what is measured. It is likely that total crimes have remained stable or increased at the same time as risk-per-phoneowner has decreased. The latest Oftel figures show that in 2005-6, the UK’s mobile phone subscriptions exceeded the population for the first time, having doubled in the last five or six years. The country being awash with mobile phones, stealing them is like shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel. We argue below that progress has been made in tackling mobile phone theft and that this is not incompatible with an increase in the problem, which would have been even greater without the measures taken to date. There may be a case for cautious optimism – but only if efforts to prevent mobile phone theft continue to be at least as persistent, innovative and adaptable as the thieves themselves to the point where the problem is stabilized and diminishes thereafter. Government, police and the mobile industry, working together, have a technological and geo-political advantage over offenders that, with a lot of skill and dogged determination, could yield absolute crime reductions in the future. What follows reviews some of the progress to date in tackling mobile phone theft and suggests this should form a platform for an expanded crime prevention effort.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


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MAILLEY, WHITEHEAD and FARRELL, 2006. Progress and prospects in the prevention of mobile phone theft. Justice of the Peace, 170, pp.404-407.


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Publication date



This is Restricted Access. The article was published in the journal, Justice of the Peace [© LexisNexis Butterworths Tolley].


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