Phone Snatch Advice and Information

Article updated: 26 April 2024.

We are reminding our members and local residents to be extra vigilant, following another local spike in phone snatches, committed by people on cycles and electric bikes.

Please do call 999 if you see a phone snatch in progress, and then call the Marble Arch Street Team. They work Monday to Saturday from 8am. If your business has seen an increase near your premises, please do let us know, so that we can redeploy our team to support you. The Street Team can act as a visible deterrent and also reassure your staff, guests and customers as they make their way to and from your premises.

Our Street Team can be reached on 07825 750777 or 07852 566122.

A reminder below of the advice we issued following police briefings back in October 2022.

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Following a recent increase in cycle and e-bike enabled phones snatches in the BID area, particularly in the southern part of the district, we held a joint briefing with our partners Safer Business Network and the Metropolitan Police to provide advice and information to our members and the local community. The briefing was attended by representatives from all sectors of the BID including offices, shops, hotels, cafes, casinos and schools.

The police gave a comprehensive update to members on the actions and tactics police are taking, common methods used by offenders, how to report the crime if you are a victim of phone snatch or you witness the crime in action, and how you can protect yourself against it.

Common phone snatch methods

Criminals often use bikes, e-bikes, mopeds and e-scooters to snatch mobile phones, particularly at busy locations such as outside stations or offices on busy streets. They usually approach from behind whilst people are talking or texting on phones. Offences can occur at any time, although peak periods are in the morning rush hour, lunchtime and 5pm onwards.

Phone snatches occur pan London and the police have ongoing operations targeting offenders – these include undercover officers and unmarked vehicles.

How to report a phone snatch

Immediately phone the police on 999 either using a companion’s phone or going into the nearest business/reception and using their phone. Letting the police know as soon as possible is crucial so police units in the area can be alerted at the earliest opportunity and this increase the chances of detection. Should anyone witness a phone snatch, call 999 – the more witnesses that report a crime and can give a description, the better. Provide as much detail as you can – even small things can sometimes be crucial.

If the police require a statement from you, this can be given later, especially if you need to concentrate on dealing with the impact of the crime. The police can visit you at a time to suit you to take your statement. A colleague can accompany you.

What information to provide to police

Phone snatches are very quick, and the offenders are away within seconds.

  • Suspects generally wear all black clothing, and often have a face mask too.
  • The police will ask you about the bike or scooter, was it electric? Was it a hire bike and if so what colour or brand? Was tape used to cover any markings on the bike or scooter?
  • Most suspects will change bikes but not change their trainers and continue to wear the same pair, so the colour, brand, any markings etc on their trainers will be enormously helpful if you have chance to look.

This information helps the police identify offenders and also to link multiple offences committed by the same individual in the same area at the same time.

If there is CCTV nearby, let police know. We can help here by linking up the business holding the footage with local police teams, who can send an email (AXON citizen) link enabling you or a business to upload the footage securely and directly to police.

To report crime (that’s not an emergency or crime in progress), a simple way is to do so online.

Keeping yourself safe

The police shared some helpful advice and tips about how to protect yourself and your belongings.

  • Remove any company lanyards before leaving work. Thieves can target people from larger, corporate organisations on the expectation that they are likely to be carrying high-value company laptops and phones.
  • While walking hold any bags, laptop bags and phones away from the roadside; this makes it much harder for thieves to snatch any items, as it requires them to mount the pavement and swerve around pavement obstacles and other people.
  • Going hands free can prevent a thief from snatching the phone out of your hand.
  • If you do need to text or check your phone, look around for anyone near you on a bike, scooter or moped, stay close to a building with your back to the wall so that no one can come up behind you. Keep looking up.
  • Make a note of your mobile phone’s unique IMIE number. This is a unique identifier. You can find the number by pressing *#06# in keypad mode on your phone. If you take a screen grab, email it to yourself at work or home or both. You can then provide this number to your mobile phone provider if your phone is stolen and it can be blocked from being used. The police always check the IMIE number of anyone who is arrested for any offence, which is checked against the IMIE register.

For any advice or information from the BID you can contact us by email. Our Street Team can be reached on 07825 750777 or 07852 566122. In an emergency, or if a crime is in progress, always dial 999 first.