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Operation Immobilise mobilised

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The mobile phone industry and police have teamed up in an initiative designed to clamp down on mobile phone crime.

With all UK mobile phone networks now sharing information on a single database, once reported stolen or lost, mobile phones are blocked across all UK networks making them useless even if the SIM card has been changed.

O2, for example, reported today that it has disabled just under 100,000 stolen mobile phones since the introduction of a comprehensive database last summer. There are now nearly half a million stolen handsets on the database, according to O2.

A £1.5 million advertising blitz, launched today, will promote the message that "Stolen Phones Don't Work Any More", thanks to this co-operation between networks. The hope is this message will deter thieves from stealing mobiles in the first place.

Meanwhile the mobile phone industry has launched a Web site, immobilise.com, and set up a new phone line (08701 123 123) to facilitate the reporting of lost and stolen handsets.

And the police have promised to crack down on criminals, using laws introduced under the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act. This legislation enables the police to arrest criminals dealing in stolen mobile phones, with penalties of up to five years in prison for those convicted of reprogramming mobiles.

The campaign is backed by the Home Office, with the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, launching the Immobilise Mobile Phone Crime initiative at an event in London today.

The Immobilise Mobile Phone Crime advertising campaign is part of an ongoing programme by the mobile phone industry, the police and the Government to clamp down on mobile phone theft.

The advertising campaign will kick off in London today and will then roll out to phone crime hotspots across the country. The majority of mobile phone retailers, including leading chains such as The Carphone Warehouse, The Link, Phones 4U and the networks' own outlets, will be putting up stickers, posters and leaflets in their stores nationwide, urging victims of mobile crime to report their loss and to help stop stolen mobile phones being sold on.

Jack Wraith, Chief Executive of MICAF (Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum), said: "The message of the campaign is clear - stolen mobile phones don't work anymore."

"In addition, if you attempt to change the identity of the phone you are looking at a five year prison sentence. We now urge all mobile phone users, both pre pay and contract, to report their handsets if they are stolen or lost and put a stop to mobile phone crime."

Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "Police forces have already made several arrests in operations against alleged reprogrammers. This crackdown will continue and more operations are already being planned to stop those fuelling the trade in stolen phones." ®

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