Irish and foreign gangs stole more than 12,000 smartphones last year — a rate that has surged by 33% in just 12 months.
New Garda figures show the massive increase in the at-times violent robberies has led to €5m worth of expensive devices being stolen on Irish streets in a single year.
Officers have attempted to tackle the problem by arresting more than 1,000 Irish and foreign criminals linked to the phone snatches during 2012.
Today is the Inaugural Crime Prevention Day. Gardaí ask the public to be smart about protecting their mobile phone http://t.co/toEFsiTpYS— Garda Info (@gardainfo) December 2, 2013
However, speaking at a specially organised Crime Prevention Day of Action launch yesterday, Sergeant Alan Roughneen of the National Crime Prevention Unit warned the problem is getting worse.
“Mobile phone theft is on the rise as gangs target high-value smartphones,” the senior officer confirmed.
“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.
“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, cafe or restaurant tables 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,” he added.
Sgt Roughneen said areas with a “higher population” such as main streets in towns and city centres are mainly targeted, but as with previous years he declined to give exact locations.
The non-disclosure of this breakdown of information is believed to be a deliberate move to not label particular areas with a “phone-snatching” description.
However, he said regardless of where a person is there are a number of ways to ward off the risk of someone attempting to steal your phone.
- Downloading a “locator app” in order to track your phone in the event it is stolen;
- Noting your phone’s unique IMEI number, which can disable the device if it disappears;
- Never leaving your phone behind in an unattended vehicle;
- Marking your phone with “unique letters or numbers”;
- Keeping your phone out of public view when walking on busy streets.
Further information is available from www.garda.ie or the official Garda Facebook and Twitter pages.
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