Met swoop on Islington phone thieves as part of Europe-wide operation

Police raid address in Holloway

Police raid address in Holloway - Credit: Archant

An offensive on organised crime took place across the borough yesterday as part of a Europe-wide operation against mobile phone thefts.

Police hit 56 targets across Islington, linking the theft of phones to groups involved in drugs, violent crime and human trafficking.

At least 12 arrests were made in the borough including a drug bust in which thousands of pounds worth of heroin and crack cocaine were recovered.

The operation, named “Big Wing”, is part of a mass European day of action involving officers from 13 countries across 10 law enforcement agencies – with 719 arrests being made across the capital and 359 phones seized.

About 80 phones are stolen each day in London and while smartphone thefts account for a quarter of crime in Islington.

He said: “Islington borough has got a leadership role in terms of planning and organising joined up law enforcement activity on mobile phone thefts.

“What we’ve got is organised groups working across Europe coming to Islington and committing thefts within the nighttime economy through table surfing and swiping purses.

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“Crime doesn’t stop at the borough boundary, some of these organisations are involved in illegal activity all over the world.

“Those who are trading in phones are also likely to be trading in drugs, guns and even people.”

One of those arrested, a 19-year-old man, was thought to be a member of the Elthorne Estate’s Busy Block gang, and allegedly had thousands of pounds worth of drugs wrapped and ready to sell at his parents house in Holloway.

As police broke down the door officers claimed he attempted to flush drugs down the toilet and threw some out of the window.

No stolen phones were found at the address, but police said that these are usually sold or traded for drugs almost as soon as they are swiped.

He was charged with possession with intent to supply class A and class B drugs.

Another large part of the operation is aimed at engaging with second-hand goods stores who thieves often sell stolen phones to.

The Met are encouraging these retailers to sign up to its “safe seller” scheme, which allows them to access a database to check whether items are stolen.

Det Chf Sup Campbell said: “We’re working with them to make sure that what they’re selling is legitimate.

“It’s really important because handling of stolen goods is a crime generator – it’s not OK to just get something off the back of a lorry no questions asked.”

Operation Ringtone has already made a significant dent in mobile phone crime in the capital, with all phone related offences down 13.4 per cent from 35,151 to 30,430 in the last year. Robbery of a mobile phone is also down 23.1pc in London over the same period.

Rob Wainwright, director of EuroPol, who helped bring together intelligence from all over Europe for the operation, said: “Organised crime has many faces.

“What sometimes seems just an example of petty crime is often part of a larger conspiracy orchestrated by an international criminal network.”