People should “under no circumstances” ever take the law into their own hands and go in search of a stolen mobile phone, according to the Garda Sergeant charged with highlighting the prevalence of phone theft.
Crime prevention officer for the Meath Division, Sergeant Dean Kerins highlighted the danger of challenging criminals as figures revealing the scale phone thefts across the country were released.
Fresh data from the Garda Síochána Analysis Service showed that 11,488 mobile phones, valued at around €5 million, have been reported stolen since the beginning of 2019. Of those, only 1,176 have been recovered.
A quarter of the thefts (2,868) were in one Dublin district - Dublin South Central while 16 per cent (1,869) were in Dublin North Central, while the other four Dublin Metropolitan areas accounted for 23 per cent of thefts. In Limerick, there were 426 phones stolen, Kildare 398, Cork city 368 and Galway 324.
Sergeant Kerins also said people needed to keep their guard up and ensure basic phone security features were enabled to keep financial and personal details secure.
While he urged urging mobile phone users to download a phone location app to help combat criminal activity, he said that he “could not stress it strongly enough that people should not go in search of a stolen mobile themselves. The reality is people can never know the danger that might lie behind a door their knock on”.
He said people able to use a “find my phone” app to track their stolen device to a particular location should report it to a local garda station. “We will take the details and follow up. It may be necessary to get a search warrant but that is what will be done,” he said.
Sergeant Kerins said that while most thefts have taken place in busy urban settings, no county was immune from the problem.
He said thieves were “opportunists and are always on the look out” and pointed out that phones left on bar counters or in cars were particularly vulnerable while criminals were also more than capable of snatching a phone from someone’s hand.
“It doesn’t matter if they can get €20 or €200 for a phone, they will take whatever they can,” he said.
He said there was a huge number of channels through which phones could be sold making them even more attractive for criminals.
As well as downloading a trusted location finder app, people needed to ensure phones were always pin protected and backed up. “The reality is that we all have our lives on our mobiles and while the device itself might only cost €100 it might have thousands of photographs, all our social media account and our financial information.”
He said family members or friends should be added as emergency contacts in people’s phone. “If we receive a lost or stolen phone, we will be able to contact that person. Our property stores throughout the country receive a lot of stolen and lost phones that we cannot trace the owners for. Adding the emergency contact will help solve this problem.”
The most common place for phones to be stolen is out in public or in a licensed premises
Sergeant Kerins said people should be wary of their surroundings and mind their property.
Amongst the other safety measures recommended are:
· Plan your night out, how are you getting there and how are you getting back?
· Avoid walking alone in dark places.
· Keep your phone out of public view.
· Don’t leave your phone on display in a vehicle.
· Dial *#06# and save a screenshot of your IMEI number. Email the image to yourself.
· Keep your phone locked and enable as much security features as you can.
· Download or activate a trusted find my phone app.
· Add a relative or friend as an emergency contact in your phone.