Operation Network kicked off on Thursday (Oct 25) with officers taking displays and crime prevention messaging to major shopping centres and universities to spread the word about protecting property.
They’ll also be encouraging people to register their phone and other gadgets on the free national database Immobilise.com – which helps police reunite owners with lost or stolen items should they be recovered.
Robbery is down across the West Midlands by almost a third with almost 1,400 fewer victims since April compared to the same period in 2011.
However, the number of pick-pocket and ‘sweeping’ style offences – with thieves cruising pubs and clubs looking to mop-up unattended valuables – is on the increase.
And with Christmas around the corner – along with the recent launch of the new Apple iPhone 5 – police are highlighting ways people can stay safe and avoid becoming a theft victim.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Parsons heads up Operation Network. He said: “There will be an increase in mobile phone purchases throughout the festive period and particularly with the new iPhone launch – being blasé about personal security could be a costly mistake as there are opportunists looking out for easy targets.
“Don’t show off valuables or mobile phones, keep them safe in a pocket and don’t ever leave them unattended on a table, even if you’re just nipping to collect a drink from the bar or going to the toilet.
“Since April, we’ve seen an average of 275 iPhones and 211 BlackBerrys stolen every month – that amounts to almost 75 per cent of all phone theft reports.
“If you have expensive phones keep them safe, install tracker apps and register them with Immobilise.com so that if they are stolen, and someone tries to cash them in, police will be alerted.”
Police will take their Operation Network displays to Bullring, Touchwood and Merry Hill shopping centres on Thursday between 10am and 6pm, plus universities in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Warwick.
At each location officers will have an internet-enabled laptop to quickly register the phones of shoppers and students on the Immobilise website.
Detective Constable Kim Savage from the Operation Network team urged mobile users to install tracker apps on their handsets.
She said: “We’ve had some great arrests thanks to tracker apps with suspects finding themselves in a police cell, and victims reunited with handsets, within minutes of phones being stolen.
“Two teens were recently jailed for three years, with a third getting an 18-month sentence, for robbing a lad of his iPhone 4 on a bus in Aston. Sensibly, he’d installed the tracker app and once activated the signal directed police to the city centre where they found the offenders with the phone on another bus.
“Without guidance from the tracker app police would likely have focused their search in Aston around the offence location. In my view everyone with an iPhone or iPad should download this app.”
West Midlands Police has created a new page on its website dedicated to offering mobile phone security advice: http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/phones.
Simple phone security tips:
• Keep phones, tablets and laptops out of sight when not in use and never leave them unattended in public places
• Ensure tracking apps are installed
• Make sure phone handsets are PIN enabled
• Register phones and gadgets on immobilise.com
• If you have suffered a theft, report it immediately to police