Personal Theft

Recent figures show that just over 60,000 personal thefts were reported in the past 12 months. With 81% of the UK population using a smartphone, the contents of a person’s pocket are now worth far more than some loose change and a bus ticket. It is always important to remain safe when out and about, and to be mindful of your possessions.

How does it happen?

A pickpocket or thief will keep an eye out for an easy target; they will want to avoid a confrontation wherever possible. If the thief sees an individual that could be targeted with little risk, and they have an object the thief will be able to sell easily, they’ll begin to follow them.

The approach taken can vary, with some thieves working with an accomplice to create a distraction, others simply concealing their hands whilst they pick a pocket, or others who will blatantly grab a wallet or phone then run. The next step, however, is always to exit the scene as quickly as possible, avoiding attention whenever possible.

Having escaped with the victim’s belongings, the thief will then go to sell them as quickly as possible. Some thieves steal to order, with a buyer already waiting, whereas some sell through a range of contacts or even through legitimate auction and resale businesses.

How to avoid personal theft.

  • When possible, travel with others in well-lit and busy public areas.
  • Keep valuables in a securely closed bag, and if possible seal this with a small padlock, or in such a way as to prevent quick entry.
  • Keep your bag straps around your arms, or in your hand, with the opening in-sight.
  • Always keep your belongings in-sight or concealed on yourself, especially in busy areas.
  • If you have large sums of money, or high value goods on your, try to avoid displaying them in public unless necessary. Only get the money you need out of your wallet at the checkout.

If the unexpected does happen and you find yourself the victim of a personal theft, the important thing is to respond quickly. If you noticed the theft as it happened, it is best to contact the police immediately on 999 so that they can respond immediately with a nearby unit. If the theft is noticed after the fact, the non-emergency 101 number should be used.

To increase the chances of recovery should your possessions be stolen, there are several steps that can be taken as a rule. For mobile phones:

  • Find and keep a record of your device’s IMEI number. Should your device be taken, this number can be used to identify the device later. If the device is permanently lost, your mobile network can render the device useless if given this number.
  • Use Android Device Manager to track the location of your phone. Alternatively using the Android Device Manager you can set your phone to lock or sound an alarm if the phone has been lost or stolen, allowing the user to discover its location. Apple uses the Find My Phone service to provide location data, which can assist police in tracking the thief.
  • Dedicated software can provide additional functionality, such as file retrieval, photo capture of whoever now has your phone, and remote wiping of personal data.

For wallets, purses, bags, and jewellery, it is always best to keep an up to date photograph of the items in question so that any recovered items can be easily identified. Similarly, property marking with an ultraviolet pen can help the police return items to their owners should a thief be apprehended.

It’s also worth keeping an eye out for listings on local classifieds, and auction sites, as online shopping has opened further avenues for goods to be quickly sold. If you recognise the content of an ad, contact the site’s administrators and the police, so that they can investigate the matter.

Doing Our Bit

We can all do our bit to reduce the rate of theft that occurs by thinking carefully about our shopping habits. When buying online from a classified ad or auction listing, think carefully about the following:

  • Is the seller a new user, with low feedback or a short history on the site?
  • Is the listing light on details, requiring minimal effort to set up (with only one or two sentences about the item, and few details about condition etc.)?
  • Is the price too good to be true?
  • Do they not say why they are selling it, nor provide information regarding how long they have owned it for?
  • If the item is a laptop or smartphone, is it locked because they ‘forgot the password’?

If the answer to the above is yes, it is best to contact the seller before purchasing to see if they can provide proof of ownership, and the missing information. If, after this, you believe the goods to be stolen, it is a good idea to contact the local police to report the issue. If they believe there is good reason to pursue the matter further, they will do so.

Still have questions about security? We’re passionate about helping you stay safe – contact us for advice on the best security solutions for your needs, or read our next Crime in Time article about protecting your cars and vehicles.

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