Police warn of phone snatching in Camden and Islington

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"I took my daughter's tablet and started tracking my phone and of course, it immediately went missing." - Credit: EMPICS Entertainment

Police officers in Camden and Islington have urged the public to be vigilant as they anticipate an increase in bike and moped robberies as public areas become busier. 

Robberies where the perpetrators are on two wheels are particularly on the Met Police's radar as more people return to public spaces after the end of winter and Covid restrictions. 

While there has been a 33% reduction in this type of crime since its peak in 2017, Camden still has the second-highest rate of "theft from person" crime in London.

From December 2016 to January 2020, there were 23,811 reported incidents, placing the borough second to only Westminster.

In 2021, Camden remained second to the highest borough (Westminster again) with 3,426 reported incidents of theft from person. The Met does not record data for two-wheeled theft specifically.

Criminals on mopeds or bicycles may mount the pavement to grab the phone or snatch it from the road, usually approaching from behind while victims are texting or talking on their phones.

Camden resident Ashley Hernandez's phone was stolen on July 12 last year.

"I was sitting at Murray Street bus stop and I had my phone in my hand. A moped came up and took it right out of my hand," said the 32-year-old.

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She said she was previously aware of this type of crime, but she did not think that the motorcyclist would mount the curb. 

"I took my daughter's tablet and started tracking my phone and of course, it immediately went missing. It fell off the map. But then about two weeks later, it popped up in China. And then it came back to London. I don't know what it was doing in China. I guess they were repurposing it or something."

Google Maps image of Murray Street bus stop in Camden, north London

Murray Street bus stop in Camden - Credit: Google Maps

Ashley reported the theft to the police but there was nothing they could do because the rider had removed the vehicle's number plate.

"I just tell myself that somebody else had their phone stolen and then they just went and bought a cheaper phone. And it just happened to be a stolen phone so it feels like I've done a good deed," she said.

Another resident said they had their phone taken from a young person on a bike one month ago in Oak Village. 

While two weeks ago a man's phone was stolen from someone on a bike at 7.30am in Belsize Grove. 

Detective Superintendent Caroline Haines, who leads the criminal investigation department in Camden and Islington, said: "We are urging people to be more vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Please keep valuables such as mobile phones, watches and cash out of sight.

“We have dedicated officers including those out on motorcycles, using a variety of specialist tactics to target offenders who commit robbery and theft on mopeds and bikes. 

"This has had a real impact: As well as achieving a significant reduction in offending, across Camden and Islington we currently have the highest success rate in the Met for bringing offenders to justice.

"Tackling violence in all its forms is our absolute priority. We want to send a clear message to anyone who thinks it’s ok to steal from our communities that it will not be tolerated."

The police advised that while most thefts happen between 6pm and 10pm, criminals operate during the day too, people should be aware of what is going on around them, and not text while walking.

Dedicated robbery teams carry out activity across Camden and Islington on a daily basis, supported by the wider Operation Venice Team. The set-up involves a combination of uniformed officers who conduct patrols in hot spot locations and target known individuals, complemented by a team of investigators who specialise in identifying and solving linked series robbery offences.