Home Secretary Theresa May announced this morning that the government plans to publish a mobile phone theft index to help Brits make informed decisions about what handsets to buy, based on which is the least likely to be nicked by wrongdoers.
The cabinet minister revealed the proposal in a speech sploshed with pre-General Election promises to the independent think tank Reform.
May opened her address by attacking the previous Labour government's policing policy and labelling cop-shop procurement during that era as a "pitiful joke". She argued that £1bn per year had been splurged on "inadequate ICT, with 4,000 staff working on 2,000 separate systems across 100 data centres."
The Home Sec claimed that since the Tory-led Coalition government was formed in 2010, her department had worked hard to unpick the "tripartite system of police governance" that had been Labour's legacy.
She added: "The Home Office no longer believes it runs policing."
Later in her speech, May claimed:
We've got on with the gritty and unglamorous work of sorting out police procurement. We've still got a long way to go — the price forces are paying for items like boots and handcuffs still varies enormously and police ICT is going to take a long time to fix — but we are at least on the way.
May, continuing the "this government is great" theme, said that spending cuts had not hindered the changes the Home Office had already applied to policing in England and Wales. She lobbied for further reform in the next Parliament from 2015. The Home Sec said:
With a still-large deficit and a record stock of debt, there will need to be further spending cuts, as even Labour acknowledge. So in policing in the future, I believe we will need to work towards the integration of the three emergency services.
We should use schemes like the Police Innovation Fund to promote capital investment that produces efficiency savings. We should go further with direct entry.
We should use technology — like body-worn video, smart phone apps and other mobile devices — to save time and improve outcomes, and it remains our aim to make all forces fully digital by 2016.
May reckoned that the Home Office now needs to build a relationship with the National Crime Agency that is similar to one that it already has with Britain's spooks.
"The government's Serious and Organised Crime Strategy — which is the first of its kind and is modelled on our Counter Terrorism Strategy, CONTEST — is evidence of this kind of approach," she argued.
The Home Sec added that her department "has an important duty to make sure national systems like the Police National Computer work effectively, and an equally important role in coordinating things like police procurement."
May said that the Home Office needed to "develop genuine knowledge and harness existing expertise on matters of crime and policing."
Crime trends and policing methods should be fully understood by her department, she added. A Crime and Policing Knowledge Hub has been developed to attempt to tackle those issues.
Opportunistic crime is an area that the government wants to crack down on, May said:
The most obvious and pressing example is the criminal opportunities provided by new technology. I want to emphasis again that the role of the Home Office in fighting cyber crime is not to cut across what law enforcement does, or try to do the job of the College [of Policing] by setting standards or targets. The Home Office must develop an understanding of cyber crime in its entirety and develop a policy response.
May said that the latest figures showed that more than a third of cars nicked in London did not involve stealing the driver's keys.
Car thieves might break into a car and programme a new electronic key. They might use sophisticated devices to "grab" the security coding when the owner uses their key so they can use it themselves. And there have been reports that they could even use "malware" to commandeer vehicle systems via satellites and issue remote demands to unlock doors, disable alarms and start car engines.
Because we have this understanding, we can now work with industry to improve electronic resilience, include this kind of resilience in the vehicle's overall security ratings, and work out the extent to which the same threat applies to other physical assets such as building security systems.
May made the obvious point that crime was driven by profit. Stolen mobes were big business for malefactors. She said:
Police forces tell us that recent rises in theft from the person, for example, were in part driven by the theft of smart phones by organised criminal gangs. These gangs targeted specific venues, like concerts and festivals, to steal smart phones on a massive scale. The phones were then often sent overseas where they are reactivated and sold.
There is of course an operational response to this kind of criminal activity, which should be left to the police, but the Home Office has also been working with industry to find new ways to stop the reactivation of phones overseas, thereby killing the criminals' export market.
The government will bring in a so-called Mobile Phone Theft Ratio "to inform the public about the handsets which have been most at risk of being targeted by thieves," May said.
"We will publish further details of this work imminently, but I am encouraged that the security improvements that industry has already introduced have contributed to recorded theft from the person falling by 10 per cent in the last year, according to the most recent crime statistics," she added. ®