The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) will focus on the export of stolen handsets as part of new strategies to tackle handset theft.
Detective Inspector Chris Paice met with officials from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) at Heathrow earlier this month to observe luggage checking practices.
Paice said the NMPCU wanted to build a database of country destinations to which stolen phones are commonly smuggled, as well as the kinds of criminals linked to stolen phones.
The NMPCU is collating data on the amount of stolen handsets found by HMRC officers in cargo and hand luggage at airports. HMRC can run IMEI checks on handsets discovered in suspect quantities.
Said Paice: “We lacked information about this area last year. We want to build a better picture of the flights that people carrying stolen handsets are on, and where they going. We want to know whether they are part of organised crime rings. At the moment we have a rough idea that these handsets are going to places like Algeria, Nigeria and Ghana.”
Paice added that the NMPCU would focus on new technologies such as mobile ticketing and banking and whether that would increase mobile phone crime. “We want to know whether criminals want to steal the phone itself or the information that is on the handset.”
The NMPCU is also looking to expand, with a view to recruit around three more officers.