Mobile phones and gadgets proving to be easy targets

The Oxford Times: Insp Andy Thompson, Oxford city centre neighbourhood inspector, said officers would be warning people about “bag dipping” and working hotspots such as coffee shops, bars and nightclubs Buy this photo » Insp Andy Thompson, Oxford city centre neighbourhood inspector, said officers would be warning people about “bag dipping” and working hotspots such as coffee shops, bars and nightclubs

THIEVES are making easy money snatching expensive phones and gadgets as theft rates in Oxford soar to a three-year high.

Police say opportunist criminals are responsible for the 21 per cent increase in thefts with more than 500 recorded crimes since April, compared to 421 in the same period last year.

Officers have now said they are cracking down on the crime and have launched Christmas campaigns to spread crime prevention messages and target theft hotspots and those responsible.

Superintendent Christian Bunt, the city’s area commander, said undercover officers will be visiting shops and bars as visitors flood to the city for shopping and festive parties.

He said: “People are carrying around far more expensive items and the fact is people who are stealing them can get a lot of money for them.

“If you are going to steal a mobile phone or a bag you are going to get less of a sentence than a burglary – the maximum sentence for theft is seven years while the maximum for household burglary is 14.

“When you have something that is a relatively easy target and people who are stealing it can get a reasonable price and there is less risk than for other offences – it is no surprise we are seeing an increase in thefts.”

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Thames Valley Police’s theft from person figures show the crime rate in Oxford rose to 509 between April 1 and yesterday – compared with 421 in the same period last year.

But Mr Bunt said most thefts could be avoided if people kept an eye on their mobile phones, laptops, iPads and purses – some of the most common items stolen.

He said: “They are absolutely avoidable. We are seeing lots of people leaving bags and phones unattended.”

The supt said it was likely theft had spiked over the summer when there were more visitors to the city.

Police have now dedicated two PCs and one PCSO to preventing similar thefts under Operation Big Dipper.

Insp Andy Thompson, the Oxford city centre neighbourhood inspector, said the officers would be warning people about “bag dipping” and working hotspots such as coffee shops, bars and nightclubs.

He said thieves could look to take advantage during the busy Christmas period, adding: “There are a lot more people in the city going out shopping and socialising.”

Last month the Oxford Mail revealed shoplifting had gone up 10 per cent from April to October with 961 this year compared to 877 in the same period last year.

Operation Blitzen will see up to 15 officers patrolling stores – speaking to staff and shoppers – in a bid to catch shoplifters and pickpockets.

In July it was reported that a mobile phone was stolen every three hours in the county. Some 1,058 iPhones were stolen in 2012 – almost half of the entire total of the year’s 2,677 thefts.

City police have also launched Operation Bells to tackle home burglaries, which are down 21 per cent from 443 to 351 since April, and will step-up patrols and keep an eye on known burglars.

The facts

Theft from person statistics for April 1 to October 31
Oxford
2011 – 350, 2012 – 341,
2013 – 407, up 19 per cent.

April 1, 2012 to December 9, 2012 – 421,
April 1, 2013 to December 9, 2013 – 509 – up 21 per cent.

Cherwell and West Oxfordshire
2011 – 99, 2012 – 100,
2013 – 111, up 11 per cent

Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire
2011 – 51, 2012 – 45, 2013 – 55,
up 22 per cent

PEOPLE ‘DON’T EXPECT IT IN OXFORD’

John Moore, who had his £1,000 laptop pinched in Blackwell’s bookshop cafe, said the figures did not surprise him.

He said: “We are easy prey.”

The American, who used to live in California and now lives in Oxford, said: “I would never take my eye off anything in Los Angeles, but here you don’t expect it.

“It is a world-class university and it creates this sense of security that really isn’t here.”

The former criminal lawyer added: “I know how these guys think.”

Mr Moore said nobody had been arrested for the offence and his laptop has not been returned.

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