Is Islington’s phone snatch scourge at an end?

Islington's Borough Commander Gerry Campbell Pic: Dieter Perry

Islington's Borough Commander Gerry Campbell Pic: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

The scourge of iPhone snatches that has plagued Islington for years could finally be at an end.

Since as early as 2011 the borough has been in the grip of an epidemic with more than 100 thefts every month - the highest amount of any borough in London.

Gangs of teenage youths prowled busy areas on bikes or mopeds before pouncing on commuters as they talked, texted or checked the internet on their smartphone, grabbing their device so fast they barely had time to react, let alone give chase.

The number of snatches was rising steadily and the situation reached crisis point in 2012, when 34 thefts in just two days prompted urgent action.

But the latest figures show mobile phone thefts are down 34 per cent from the same period last year.

Chf Supt Gerry Campbell, Islington’s borough commander, said: “This is a big reduction in mobile phone thefts and it’s pleasing to see.

“This is something that has been brought about by sustained activity on our part.

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“We’ve targeted offenders, targeted the places where crimes happen, improved awareness among members of the public and worked with the local authority and the industry.

“Mobile phones are a lot harder to sell now through kill switches and improved tracking and that makes them a lot less desirable.

“But that not withstanding they can still be sold, and we will deal with those responsible.

“These figures are good news, but make no mistake we will continue to drive them down even further.”

A typical snatch involves older teenagers riding past an iPhone user, grabbing the device and making off before the victim knows what is happening.

Although most do not use violence, there have been cases where victims have been brutally attacked.

The thefts typically involve iPhones because thieves know they can sell them for £200 on the street.

Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “When I first saw there figures at the end of the summer I wanted to be absolutely confident that it wasn’t a blip.

“But in fairness, these figures have dropped like a brick.

“There has been a real marked reduction and our cops should feel very satisfied they have played a big role in this.

“There’s a combination of factors, but they’ve done a bloody good job. It’s taken a while, but it was never going to be an easy problem to solve.

“It feels like we have finally got a grip on the problem.”