Stolen mobiles to be blocked within 48 hours

Mobiles phones will be blocked within 48 hours of being reported stolen under a new agreement between industry and the Home Office.

Britain’s five mobile networks have all signed up to a new charter promising to step up their efforts to make stolen phones unusable, and therefore less attractive to thieves.

There was a sharp rise in the number of reported robberies last year, up eight per cent from 90,747 to 98,204, and the Home Office attributed much of this to the increase in people carrying expensive mobile phones and MP3 players.

Home secretary John Reid said today’s charter, signed by Vodafone, Orange, O2, 3 and T-Mobile and pledging to block 80 per cent of all stolen mobiles within 48 hours of being reported to their home network, would help tackle street crime.

“I believe the public should be free to carry valuable items, such as mobile phones and MP3 players, on the streets without fear of becoming a target for robbers,” he said.

The government has pledged £1.35 million for a national centre of excellence to come up with the best ways to tackle the market in stolen mobile phones.

It is also launching an awareness campaign next month, with warnings put on cash points in the most at-risk areas of the merits of keeping expensive gadgets out of sight.

Mr Reid said there were 21,000 fewer muggings than five years ago, insisting much of the recent rise in street robberies was due to increases in certain areas, such as London.

“The Home Office is already working with these local crime and disorder reduction partnerships to help them tackle their problems, through expert advice, and dedicated action plans for their areas,” he added.

“Working hand in hand with the industry, we are taking important steps to reduce street crime, and fear of crime, and keep our public spaces safe.”

Tim Goodwin, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), welcomed the new initiative, saying: “We are already getting to grips with street crime, but with the support of the mobile phone industry and the public we can achieve even more.”