12,000 mobile devices – mostly smartphones – stolen in Ireland this year

3 Dec 2013

More than 12,000 mobile phones – the majority of which are smartphones – have been stolen from people in the past year, the gardaí have said. This is an increase of more than 33pc from the same period two years ago.

The gardaí also said criminal gangs are targeting high-value smartphones.

“These are expensive items and people should take the same care of them as they would any item that costs up to €500 and more,” said Sgt Alan Roughneen of the National Crime Prevention Unit. 

“Smartphone owners need to be more vigilant, particularly when we are coming into a time of the year when they are more likely to be out socialising.

“All too often we see smartphones worth hundreds of euro being left out on tables in bars, nightclubs, cafés or restaurants while people chat and this makes it very easy for criminals to simply walk past and steal them.

“People should also avoid using their phones while walking on the street as it means you are distracted and won’t be able to react to prevent your device being taken from you in mid-sentence,” added Roughneen.

The gardaí will be taking to social media over the coming week, including Facebook and Twitter, to warn the public about mobile theft.

The Irish police force is also taking action to reduce thefts of mobile phones. For example, under Operation Aughrim, which utilises intelligence to target specific areas where street crime is occurring in Dublin, more than 1,000 arrests have been made in the last year.  

In related news, US carriers have completed a major database of all phones stolen in the US with the intention of making a global database eventually possible.

Steps to defend yourself from smartphone theft:

·       Register your mobile/smartphone with your service provider

·       Take note of your unique IMEI number for your mobile/smartphone and store it in a location other than your phone. If your phone is stolen, the IMEI number is used to disable your phone. The IMEI number for your phone is located on the back of your phone underneath the battery or by dialling *#06# on your keypad

·       Enable the PIN security feature and keep your phone locked at all times

·       When out and about, keep your phone out of public view, be streetwise and always be aware of your surroundings

·       Never leave your phone behind in an unattended vehicle

·       Property mark your phone with unique letters or numbers

·       Avoid making calls or texting while crossing the road

·       If making or receiving a call in public, always do so with your back up against a wall, shop window or other kind of barrier so you can see around you and reduce the risk of being attacked from behind

·       If you have a smartphone, consider downloading a location finder app

·       If your phone is lost or stolen, immediately report it to An Garda Síochána and contact your service provider with your IMEI in order to have your number blocked 

Phone thief image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years