At least one mobile phone is stolen on the streets of Sheffield city centre every day by pickpockets, bag dippers and thieves.
Figures released under the Your Right To Know campaign, reveal a total 472 mobile thefts were reported to South Yorkshire Police during 2014, with criminals using a range of tactics to snatch gadgets from unsuspecting victims.
By day ‘mobile muggers’ await ideal opportunities to swipe phones from cafes, while at night busy bars provide a desirable environment for pickpockets and bag dippers to strike.
Although the crime figures are high, there has been a dramatic reduction in mobile phone thefts over the past two years, with a total of 770 phone thefts reported in 2012, and 657 incidents recorded in 2013.
The decrease is a reflection of the police force’s ongoing efforts to detect and prevent this type of crime.
Chief Inspector Jayne Forrest, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “Mobile phones are particularly desirable to thieves as they are easy to take and easy to sell.
“I’m unhappy with the level of crime and although it has come down, it could come down even further – there is always room for improvement.
“We have specific operations ongoing to tackle thefts of this kind, with enhanced patrols in the city centre day and night.”
Initiatives implemented by the force include giving out clip-on bells (pictured above) to members of the public, which can be attached to phone cases and purses to alert an individual if the items were to be lifted by a thief.
Chf Insp Forrest says officers are also using preventative measures in cafes, pubs and bars, to highlight to people just how vulnerable their valuables are.
She said: “People don’t always realise they are making themselves appealing to thieves and they shouldn’t under estimate how crafty they can be.”
Sly methods used by thieves include distracting people with leaflets which are used to cover and swipe mobile phones left on table tops.
There is also a ‘hug and mug’ manoeuvre, whereby the thief finds an excuse to give a stranger a hug and pilfers from their pockets.
In response, the force is using plain-clothes officers to catch criminals in the act by setting up ‘honey traps’ to see if tempted thieves will take the bait.
And it is not just phone thefts the force is tackling. Figures reveal purses and wallets are popular pinched items.
A total of 138 purses and wallets were reported stolen in 2012, which increased to 205 in 2013, before declining slightly in 2014 to 190.
Bag thefts meanwhile remain fairly low with 15 snatched last year.
Whatever the item taken, Chf Insp Forrest says officers are working hard to bring offenders to justice.
She said: “Those coming into the city with the intention of committing a crime need to be aware that we will use a range of tactics to hunt them down and put them before a court.
“We will not be complacent, we will continue to fight this crime.”