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Gadget thefts on trains on the rise

A Virgin train in the UK19/11/13

By Camilla Turner

Thefts of iPads, tablets and Kindles on Britain's railways have soared this year, while thefts of laptops and computers have gone down.

This year there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of iPad, tablet and Kindle thefts reported across the UK's rail network, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by right-of-centre think-tank Parliament Street showed.

Thefts of these items have been increasing year on year since 2008, according to the British Transport Police (BTP) statistics.

Only 2% of gadgets recovered

Of the 949 reported iPad, Tablet and Kindle thefts this year, only 2 per cent were recovered by their owners.

Meanwhile there were 22 per cent fewer laptops and computers stolen on trains this year compared with last year.

Thefts of laptops and computers have decreased each year since 2010. Of the 1,061 items stolen this year, just 3 per cent were reclaimed.

Michael Levi, Professor of Criminology at Cardiff University, said: "People steal what they can steal easily and can easily resell for a price that makes the risk worthwhile.

"Laptops and computers often require more effort to gain access to, and their resale has a much narrower market since tablets and Kindles emerged - their legitimate sales are also falling."

Decrease in stolen mobile phones

He added: "Password protection and other features are ok for reducing the scale of damage, but the potential offender does not know this at the time of theft and so it is not a deterrent until people stop buying stolen ones.

"With the rise of cloud services, less valuable irreplaceable data is actually held on the machine itself."

There was a decrease in the number of mobile phones reported stolen by commuters this year compared with last year.

Before that, the number mobile phone thefts had been increasing each year since 2009. This year, 6,436 phones were stolen, of which 2 per cent were reclaimed.

Professor Levi explained why so few devices are reclaimed: "People who are insured usually lose interest and have no legal claim once they are paid out.

"The insurers may need to do more in this regard but they often just write the loss off."

New devices a top target for thieves

Steven George-Hilley, director of technology at Parliament Street, said: "The explosion of tablets and shiny new devices is clearly proving a top target for thieves on the transport network.

"It is vital that consumers are vigilant and transport police impose tough penalties on the criminals targeting hard-working commuters."

A BTP spokesman said: "Although this year is the ninth consecutive year that crime has fallen, the targeting of high-tech devices such as smartphones and tablets, and organised pickpocketing activity, has created a rise in theft offences.

"This increase in theft of passenger property, particularly those targeting smartphone and tablets, reflect the growing problem throughout London and the UK."

Earlier this year, BTP launched Operation Magnum in a bid to crackdown on pickpockets, gadget-grabbers and luggage thieves across the rail network.

The BTP spokesman added: "Indications show that it is having an impact, with the total number of thefts across England, Scotland and Wales between April and October this year down 6.1 per cent compared with the same period last year.

"However, we are not complacent, and we will continue to run Operation Magnum over the festive period to drive down crime in an increasingly busy environment."


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