Published: 29 June, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
A DEBATE about an “epidemic” of mobile phone thefts in Islington turned into a political punch-up at a full council meeting on Tuesday with Labour mocking the Lib Dems’ suggested solutions.
A motion by the Lib Dems noted that more than 100 phones have been snatched since May, mainly in Caledonian Road, Upper Street and Essex Road.
Thieves operate by snatching the phones out of people’s hands as they ride by on their bicycles. Islington Police have been warning about the snatches on Twitter, with at least three reported a day. Most of the phones taken – 95 per cent – are said to be Apple iPhones.
The Lib Dems said the solution was greater awareness and called for a borough-wide publicity campaign to warn people of the dangers.
But Labour mocked this, even though the police have said awareness is the best way to tackle the thieves.
Rhodri Jamieson-Ball, a Lib Dem who proposed the motion said: “It is wrong that people cannot show their phone in public. These robberies are happening in just a few seconds with victims being approached from behind.
“The council should be working with the police to alert owners and to advise how a stolen iPhone can be located.
“The council can and should do more to help the police dealing with this epidemic.”
The Lib Dems had suggested that the council should publicise the Met Police’s own campaign and use online awareness campaigns such as Twitter discussion threads #findmyiphone and #lookout.
But Labour tabled an amendment to make it clear that it wasn’t just iPhones that were being stolen.
Crime chief councillor Paul Convery added: “We have a fundamental problem on our hands which is a number of young people who think it’s acceptable to steal things and that they have a right to the best things in life.”
He added, however, that the council was not going to “put billboards up” but rather use social media to warn people.
Labour councillor Gary Poole added that two-thirds of the victims were aged between 13 and 16, adding that the problem was part of “serious organised crime”.
Lib Dem Tracy Ismail, who seconded the motion, said: “I just thought the council could do something simple – posters in libraries or at bus shelters.”
Cllr Convery replied that poster campaigns were not the “effective thing to do”.