2m plan to fight rise in phone theft

A HUGE surge in mobile phone theft has resulted in 40 mobile phones being reported stolen every day, according to official figures released yesterday.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said 13,433 mobile phones were reported stolen or missing to gardaí so far this year.

This compares to 7,493 such incidents in 2000 an 80% rise in the past three years.

"Along with the increased usage and demand for mobile phones, there has unfortunately been a proportionate increase in the theft of mobile phones. Young people appear to be particularly vulnerable to this type of crime," said the minister.

Mr McDowell was speaking at the launch of a new 2 million initiative by the Irish Cellular Industry Association (ICIA) and An Garda Síochána.

The scheme has set up a database on which mobile phone operators can register the identity of all handsets reported stolen.

Once a victim has registered the phone as stolen, it can be deactivated across the three networks Vodafone, Meteor and 02.

"This initiative has the potential to radically reduce the number of mobile phone thefts. This brings to the attention of the public the fact that they can now, by taking some fairly simple steps, make their phone incapable of being used, no matter what SIM card is put into it," said Mr McDowell.

The ICIA are advising people to record and retain the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number on their phone.

This is a unique, 15-digit number that identifies a phone, and can be found behind the battery or can be accessed by keying *#06# into most phones.

ICIA spokesman, Dr Michael Gillen, said users should register their phone with their phone network. This will speed deactivating the phone if it was stolen. "Under this initiative it will be useless for an offender because they can't sell it on. There will also be no point in buying these phones, because they will not work," said Garda Inspector Pat McCabe.

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