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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 13:16 GMT
Police target mobile phone thieves
A man on his mobile phone
Mobile phone crime hit 700,000 people last year
An extensive new campaign to stop mobile phone thefts is being launched by the police in London.

Over the next four weeks police will mark thousands of mobile phones across London with ultra-violet pens to make the phones instantly identifiable if they are stolen and later recovered.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens is launching the campaign which comes in the wake of a dramatic increase in mobile phone theft.

More than 50% of street crime in the capital now involves mobile phones.

Special teams

The new campaign will see eight teams of uniformed promotional staff employed by the Met introducing property marking across the 32 London boroughs.

The police teams will be stationed in shopping centres, busy high streets, train stations and outside Tube stations.

As well as mobile phones, they will also be marking up on the spot other vulnerable valuables like laptop computers.

Sir John said: "This really will help us to catch mobile phone robbers. People will stand a much better chance of getting their property back and it could deter a thief from stealing it in the first place."

Last week mobile phone giant Vodafone and BT Cellnet responded to Government pressure by announcing the introduction of technology to immobilise stolen handsets.

Jail terms

Sir John said: "The announcement last week from the mobile phone industry about the investment in technology to disable handsets is very good news indeed and exactly what we have been asking for.

"This news combined with the fact that we are arresting more street robbers than ever before - 27% more than last year - means that mobile phone robbery is rapidly becoming a very risky crime to be involved in."

According to a recent Home Office report, mobile phone thefts surged last year with more than 700,000 being stolen.

School-age children were at least five times more likely to be victims than adults.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf has called for violent mobile phone robbers to be jailed for up to five years.

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