Police target mobile phone thieves in London-wide raids

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‘Operation Big Wing’ saw hundreds of stolen handsets recovered in 24 hours, including eight high-value phones worth £90,000

The Metropolitan Police Service has arrested 449 people as part of a 24-hour crackdown in response to the rising number of mobile phone thefts in London.

The raids on residential and business properties took place on May 23 across 32 London boroughs in an operation code-named ‘Big Wing’.

Police told Mobile News they recovered “hundreds” of stolen handsets including eight gold-plated and diamond- encrusted models – by unnamed manufacturers – worth £90,000.

The raids resulted in a number of on-the-spot arrests, and searches of the raided premises also unearthed quantities of illegal narcotics intended for supply.

The Metropolitan Police said it carried out the raids based on intelligence it had amassed as well as information supplied by the public.

Officers from specialist units including transport, traffic and specialist crime were involved, as well as police cadets.

Metropolitan Police Service commander Alison Newcomb said: “Our Big Wing days are an excellent demonstration of our commitment to London of how we can effectively mobilise our resources and crack down on mobile phone thieves and those who trade in stolen phones.

“As a result, more than 400 arrests were made for offences including theft, robbery and drugs supply.”

Targets

Police confirmed there were 449 arrests in total, including 57 for burglary, 40 for robbery, 64 for theft, 42 for possession with intent to supply, 45 for assaults and four for firearms offences.

A full breakdown of the number of handsets recovered had yet to be released by the Met as Mobile News went to press. Commander Newcomb did however reveal one of the biggest hauls was made in Bromley, south-east London, where around 100 phones were seized at two addresses. These included 93 handsets found at an address in Bromley Common, 15 of which were immediately identified as stolen, resulting in an arrest.

Another arrest was made in St Paul’s Cray, Bromley, after an unspecified number of phones was seized from a barber’s shop.

Phones were also seized in Brent and Ilford.

Raising awareness

As part of the operation the Metropolitan Police Service held a number of educational events across London to help people reduce the risk of becoming a victim of phone theft.

In Merton, south London, police cadets handed out over 500 leaflets titled ‘Don’t make your mobile phone a moving target’ and spoke to commuters using Wimbledon overground and Underground train station about steps they could take to prevent their phone being stolen.

In Islington officers visited students in a number of schools to promote the benefits of registering smartphones on property register Immobilise.com, which allows users to alert police, insurers and second- hand traders simultaneously if their device is stolen.

Newcomb added: “I wish to convey my thanks to all the hard work of those involved in this operation for achieving such good results and making our streets a hostile place for criminals to operate.”

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