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Mobile phone crime reduction initiative funded by UK Government

The Home Office : 18 March, 2009  (Company News)
Police National Computer to be linked into the National Mobile Phone Register in attempt to stamp out mobile phone crime in the UK
New funding of £250,000 has been made available to help police more swiftly identify stolen mobile phones Home Office Minister Alan Campbell has announced.

The scheme will see the Police National Computer (PNC) linked to the National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR) enabling frontline officers to quickly and easily check if a phone has been registered as stolen from its rightful owner.

The Home Office and National Mobile Phone Crime Unit have also been working with industry to build safeguards into new developments in M-Commerce - which will see mobile phones being used like debit cards - and are also developing a charter to ensure the roll-out of M-Commerce takes crime prevention into consideration. This is part of wider government action to ensure future developments in mobile phone technology include crime-prevention measures.

Home Office Minister, Alan Campbell said: "By working closely with the mobile phone industry we have already put in place measures to make it harder for thieves to profit from mobile phone theft - around 90 per cent of handsets reported stolen are now blocked within 24 hours of reporting reducing their value and the incentive for thieves.

"The rapidly developing nature of mobile technology means we must continue to work together to eliminate any future opportunities for criminals to profit from mobile theft, as new technologies develop those safeguards must be incorporated at the drawing board stage.

"Linking the National Mobile Phone Register to the Police National Computer will also provide enormous benefits to the fight against mobile phone crime. Currently an average of 25 per cent of searches result in the police obtaining vital information that could result in property being retrieved and cases being solved. I believe that putting this invaluable tool at frontline officer's fingertips will see that number rise further.

"There is already a great deal of good work being done by the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit and industry to ensure new technology has anti-crime safeguards built in at the earliest stage and I know that will continue."

An average of 25,000 police searches of the NMPR are carried out every month. Integrating this database with the PNC will mean that if a phone has been registered front-line officers will be able to find out who the rightful owner is and whether the phone is stolen with one simple call over a police radio.

Providing front-line officers with access to the register via the PNC will significantly enhance the crime investigation facility for all UK law enforcement.

Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on mobile phone crime, Tim Godwin said: 'The National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR) has been a key driver in tackling mobile phone crime, allowing police to check the current status of a mobile phone through a simple online search. Its use has already contributed to year-on-year reductions in mobile phone crime.

"With the advent of new technology and developing initiatives like mobile banking/payment it is essential that we continue to improve policing tools to tackle mobile phone related criminality. This funding will improve the accessibility and efficiency of the NMPR, allowing police forces across the country to target acquisitive crime involving mobile phones.'

Adrian Gorman, general manager of fraud and security for O2 and Chairman of the Communications Crime Strategy Group, said:

"The mobile phone industry works very closely with the government and police service on the issue of street crime involving mobile phones.

"This activity is another important and positive step in providing the police officer on the beat with the ability to check the identity of a mobile device that has been reported by their owners as having been stolen.

"It will not only greatly assist the investigation of street crime involving mobile phones, it will also assist the police in returning stolen mobiles to their owners.

"This action, on the part of the Home Office, also highlights the need for the user to ensure speedy and timely reporting to their network when a mobile phone is stolen, so that it can be blocked on the network."

In the last six months of 2007, 90,910 searches were made of the NMPR resulting in 18,086 matches (21.5%). 44,681 of those searches were from stop and search, resulting in 8,505 matches (19%). This means that either a handset was identified as stolen or the proper owner correctly identified.

Near Field Communication is a technology that enables M-commerce, where mobile phones are used as credit or debit cards. Global trials of the technology are taking place.

The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit, set up by the Home Office and Association of Chief Police Officers in 2003, is a national centre of excellence in disrupting the markets of stolen mobile phones. Based in London, it is an intelligence unit that advises forces on suitable disruption tactics and how to apply the legislation.

The National Mobile Phone Register is linked to voluntary databases - such as Immobilise, where people can enter their phone's details. So if the phone is lost or stolen police can identify it and return it to the rightful owner. Approximate 22 million phones are currently registered on it.

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