Don’t be the victim of a ‘hugger mugger’: Manchester police warn students after rise in phone thefts

By Ana Hine

A spate of mobile phone thefts in Manchester have police warning students to remain vigilant after a whopping 775 phones were stolen in the city centre from April to June.


Thefts where criminals target high-value phones or ‘hugger mugger’ incidents are on the increase as they can be stolen and sold for more money.


With students back for a new year, thefts such as these risk increasing further and police have warned people to keep phones in their pockets even when listening to music.


Many thieves use hugging to distract their victims during a theft. Others will just take the phone out of someone’s hand. Other techniques, like pick-pocketing, are also a problem.

Detective Constable Adam Cronshaw, said: “I want to make two appeals in relation to this incident; firstly I am eager to try and locate the offender so if anyone recognises someone from the footage, thinks they know who these two are or has any other relevant information please get in touch.

“Secondly, I need to drive home personal safety advice to try and reduce these types of offences, which are unfortunately happening far too frequently in the city centre.

“We work hard to target people committing these offences, be it through awareness campaigns, high visibility patrols in the city centre, offender targeting and by working closely with retail outlets that purchase goods like mobiles, making it harder for criminals to get a quick sell.


The warning comes after CCTV footage was released of a 28-year-old woman being mugged near the Arndale Shopping centre earlier this month.


The woman had her iPhone 5 snatched out of her hand by a man on a BMX bike as she walked along New Cathedral Street on September 6.


As part their #KeepItSafe poster and Twitter campaign in July, Chief Inspector Gareth Parkin said: “As the popularity of smartphones rises, so too do the number of thefts but many victims seem unaware as to just how much their phone is worth.

“You wouldn’t walk around waving £500 in the air or leave a wad of cash on the table while having a coffee but this is exactly what people are doing with their phones.”

In February bike-riding thieves struck in the Hulme and Oxford Road areas. This time students were targeted with 11 being affected in the first half of the month.

The phones taken, iPhone 4s and 5s, were worth several hundred pounds second hand.  A phone with personal or banking details can sell for around £1000, while without data a phone can fetch up to £400 abroad.

GMP is urging people to install the free ‘Find My iPhone’ app which has GPS for more accurate tracking.  

If your phone is stolen and you do track it with an app GMP would prefer you to inform the officer dealing with your case rather than attempting to recover it yourself.

Anyone with information about any of the incidents mentioned should call police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Picture courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr, with thanks.

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